Home Care Assistant

What do the following people have in common?

  • An 80-year-old terminally ill man who needs physical help with getting in and out of his bath?
  • A young woman who has multiple sclerosis and can't get to the shops on her own?
  • A 19-year-old who is back home after a motorbike accident and needs help with all kinds of things from shaving to keeping hospital appointments?
  • A family of four where the parents have drug-related problems and whose children are on the Child Protection Register for neglect?

They all rely on the services of a Home Care Assistant (also known as Home Carer or Home Help) who is employed in local authority Social Services Departments.  The Homecare Assistant works on their own initiative within the community; working to provide personal care and support to vulnerable members of the community, including people with physical disabilities, people with sensory impairments (e.g. blind or deaf), people with learning difficulties, people with mental health difficulties (such as dementia and depression) and older people with complex physical and mental health needs.  Homecare Assistants support people who have a range of assessed needs to continue to live in the community and prevent their admission to residential or nursing care homes.

Work Environment
Home Care Assistants spend most of their time in people's homes. They are given a "round" of service users and get to know individual service users very well.  If a service user is not talkative, it can be an isolating job.  Occasionally two assistants will work together to transfer someone from bed to bath using special equipment.  They may also have meetings and training courses with other colleagues in the Homecare Service.  Special clothing and equipment are issued - gloves, tabards, torches, personal safety alarms and residual circuit devices (for use with electrical equipment).  Hours can be flexible, anything from 10 to 37 hours, including evenings and weekends, depending both on the needs of the service and the circumstances of the post-holder.  Generally the home care service is available from 7.00am to 10.30pm for 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Daily Activities

  • Provide assistance in accordance with each service users' needs identified in the service users' individual care plan.  To undertake all aspects of personal care provided to the service user, whose needs are often complex and require the management of a diverse range of tasks, e.g. assistance to dress, wash, bathe, toilet and undertake catheter care.
  • Carry out moving and positioning procedures, in accordance with the workplace health and safety regulations.  This involves the use of electric hoists, ceiling track hoists, wheelchairs and other equipment to ensure safe transfers from bed to chair, or chair to toilet, or safe handling for dressing and bathing/showering where a service user is unable to stand or move  without significant levels of support; often with the help of two staff working side by side.
  • The Homecare Assistant has to ensure that the dietary, nutrition and health requirements of the service users are met, in accordance with the care plan, shopping for household provisions and helping with household management and paying bills, arranging prescriptions for medication and supervising assisting with medication.
  • Support and encourage service users to maintain personal control and maximum independence.  To enable service users to express their wishes and feelings, ensuring opportunities to influence the quality of care they receive.  This is particularly important when the service user suffers from dementia or has a very severe disability, where so much control has been taken away from them.  Homecare Assistants have to provide a flexible service that is able to respond to service users' needs, and to do so on their own initiative in situations that arise on a day-to-day, visit-by-visit basis.

Skills & Interests

  • This job suits people who have some experience of providing care or working with people in a service environment such as catering, retail or health.
  • You must be sensitive to the needs of all kinds of different people and be able to communicate with individuals of different levels of ability.
  • You need to be able to work well in a team and on your own initiative.
  • You must understand the importance of confidentiality and respect for a service user's privacy.

Entry Requirements
Although there are currently no specific minimum entry qualifications for the job, councils are introducing training towards NVQ Level 2 in Direct Care for those entering as Homecare Assistants.  Some authorities might insist on knowledge and experience of working with people in a care setting.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
It is likely that demand for home care services will grow because of the increasing ageing population and the continuing shift towards care in the community.  Promotion is possible from HCA to home care organiser to home care manager.  This is usually dependent on experience and a competency assessment and may lead to further training to N/SVQ levels 3 and 4 in Direct Care and Care Management.

Further Information & Services
Health and Care Professions Council www.hpc-uk.org
Care Council for Wales www.ccwales.org.uk
Skills for Care www.skillsforcare.org.uk
Community Service Volunteers www.csv.org.uk/socialhealthcare

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales (www.careerswales.com/) or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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