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Time To Care

Nearly 24,000 people in Northern Ireland receive care-in-the-home services provided by the Health and Social Care Trusts. Most are elderly and rely on this assistance to enable them to live as independently as possible in their own homes.

The most common type of domiciliary service provided is personal care, where people get help with washing, dressing, and getting in and out of bed. Others may get help with preparing meals.

A recent report published by the Department of Health revealed, however, that half of all domiciliary care visits lasted between just 16 and 30 minutes. Nearly 30pc of visits lasted 15 minutes or less.

Just over four years ago, we published a report titled Care At Home - Older People’s Experience of Domiciliary Care. Our research involved care workers employed by local authorities, health and social care trusts, and by private care companies.  

Although our report showed that most older people valued the service, without which many could not cope with the basic activities of daily life at home, there were criticisms even then of the short duration of visits.

Many also complained about the inflexibility of some staff due to heavy workloads, resulting in people not being helped out of bed until lunchtime or being put to bed much too early in the evening.

One woman had asked care workers if they could encourage her husband, who was recovering from a stroke, to carry out smaller tasks himself to build up his confidence. She was told, ironically, that care workers were not allocated enough time to help him to help himself.

Domiciliary care, however, is more than just physical help. For some older people, visits from their care worker might be the only person they see all day, so social and emotional interaction is just as important to them.

Time spent building relationships not only enables care workers to carry out what can be very intimate tasks, but also assess changes in health or mental state – and that takes a lot more than just 15 minutes a day.

Do you or a relative receive domiciliary care? What is the most important aspect of that care?

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AMANDA NEWELL 11-Jan-2017 at 00:44 hrs

I think it's awful they are only allocated 15mins. That might be the only person the elderly patient sees all day. I also don't like it that patients are wakened up or fed in an unrealistic time eg. Lunch at 11am because calls to elderly have to be on the run not when it's lunch or dinner time etc. The most important aspect is giving time not rushing in unrealistic manner.