personal care for elderly

Personal care: A complete guide to what you can expect

6 min read

As we grow older some physical aspects of life can become tricky and we may need help with personal care.

This can then lead to embarrassment or anxiety about failing to meet self-imposed standards of cleanliness and presentation.

One option is to choose to move to a care home, where there is constant help on hand to perform these tasks.

However, many people who can no longer perform these functions themselves would prefer to remain in their own homes.

Let's take a closer look at what we mean by the term 'personal care' and what services you can access in your home.

Here’s a summary of what we will cover:

  • Personal care isn’t medical or nursing care, though there can be some cross over.
  • Clinical personal care includes elements of medical attendance such as changing stoma bags or continence care.
  • All sorts of people with varying needs might have personal care in their own homes.
  • It can be particularly helpful for those living with dementia.
  • Personal care does not include more generic care tasks such as grocery shopping or housework.
personal care or care home

Who needs personal care?

Many people choose to have personal care in their own homes.

Those with limited mobility, frailty, or dementia, may want some assistance to maintain their standards of appearance or hygiene.

This also applies to people who have been experiencing illness or injury, but who are recovering at home.

Often family members feel that they should look after their loved one’s personal care when they no longer can.

This certainly is an option, if you and your loved one feel comfortable with it. 

However, some aspects of personal care may be too intimate to perform comfortably for many close relatives or friends.

Sometimes, the change in the relationship between family members or loved ones when one becomes a carer is difficult to navigate.

In this case, home care visits are a good solution.

Confused about care funding?

Free Care Funding Guide Download


What does a provider of personal care do?

Home care providers have a very wide remit, which a person can choose from according to their personal needs. 

Carers can take responsibility for personal care, domestic care, even transporting a person to social or medical visits.

They may act as a companion, perhaps taking meals with the person in their care, reading aloud, or playing a game of cards together. 

The length of visit is also very varied. 

Some people may require a short visit once a day to help them prepare their meals, or with some housework.

Others might need a little more personal care, such as assistance getting dressed or bathing.

And some people might want to have a live-in care worker on hand 24 hours a day, to assist with every aspect of their life. 

It is crucial to remember that the needs and wants of the person come first, and the care package is built around that. 

Also consider that should a person’s needs change, their care should also adapt – this may affect how you are paying for home care.

personal care at home

How is personal care different to a residential home?

Personal care at home is obviously different to living in a residential care home in many respects. 

Many people prefer to remain in their own home, surrounded by their possessions and memories, over moving to a care home.

Staying in their own home also avoids the upheaval of a big move. They may be living close to family, friends or social clubs. 

Residential care can also be an expense, with home care costs often being far more manageable.


Worried about your loved one?

Early signs of dementia free guide

live in home care

When is a care home the right choice?

Of course, there are plenty of upsides to a move to a residential care home.

Living in a care home may provide the advantage of social contact with others and a regular schedule of activities.

24-hour care is also a great advantage for many people. In addition, there is no longer any need to grocery shop, cook, or clean, which some older people can find difficult. 

You do need to consider care home costs.

A carer who comes to your own home can do many household tasks. They can also take you to social activities, and to medical appointments if necessary. 

The amount of time your carer spends with you can be quite different at home compared to in a care home.

how much does home care cost

Residential homes

In a residential home, there is help on hand from a trained carer or nurse at all times.

However, you may not be the only person that carer needs to look after at any given moment. 

Care in your own home is personal and dedicated only to you. Generally, you will be able to specify how much care you need, and for how long each day or week.

Your at-home carer will be there to encourage your independence in any way that they can.

They will be able to assist with the tasks you need help with.

One type of care is not better, it depends on the circumstances as to which suits you better. 

home care visits

Can people living with dementia have personal care?

People living with dementia may be particularly aided by home care in the early to middle stages of the disease.

Dementia and Alzheimer’s are generally characterised by memory issues.

These memory issues can lead to confusion about surroundings, people and tasks that once were familiar. 

Together, these can lead to someone living with dementia forgetting to perform many routine tasks such as laundry or cleaning.

They may not be able to shop for food adequately any longer, nor cook for themselves safely. 

As memory loss increases, people needing dementia care can also forget to eat and drink as often as they should.

A valuable helping hand

They may also neglect washing and personal hygiene. This means that their personal care can fall by the wayside. 

People living with dementia are particularly helped by having a regular routine and being surrounded by familiar people.

It is common to experience anxiety alongside dementia, due to the confusion that memory loss causes. 

Having a trained and patient carer to gently support in essential tasks can be a great relief to loved ones.

Regular stimulation, including music for dementia, plus adequate nourishment and hydration can also help to offset some aspects of dementia. 

The benefit of a regular carer aiding with routine tasks can be invaluable for these reasons.

There’s more here on what is domiciliary care?

Confused about care funding?

Free Care Funding Guide Download

home care near me

What is not included in personal care?

Personal care does not include tasks outside of general hygiene and appearance-based tasks. 

For instance, house cleaning, grocery shopping, collecting prescriptions, general companionship and assistance in travel. 

These are all aspects of care that a carer is trained to perform, however, as they are not the intimate personal tasks a person would normally perform for themself, they are not defined as ‘personal care’.

For these tasks, home help may be better.

Many people have a care package which includes different elements of care.

Some people might need help to cook, but not with bathing. Or perhaps shaving has become difficult to perform safely, but dressing is still achievable. 

Care in the home can be modified to suit whatever personal needs the person may have.

Your care assessment

Your initial assessment should clarify all of the areas where you need help and support.

It is important to remember that your personal care needs might change over time.

You should be offered regular reviews to ensure that your care package is sufficient for your needs. 

If there is a significant change in circumstances, again, your care needs should be reviewed. Perhaps after a hospital stay or an illness.

Find out exactly what is a care plan here.

Good luck on your personal care journey – help is out there for you and your loved one.

Get a personalised care shortlist

If you need help caring for a loved one then why not try the Sweet Pea care match service.

It’s easy – all you need to do is enter your loved ones details and we’ll take care of the rest.

You’ll be matched with our database of trusted carers, cleaners, gardeners, hairdressers and many more services, based on your loved one’s individual needs.