Live-in care is when a professional carer lives in their client’s home to enable their needs to be met. This means they’re available to help throughout the day and at night, if necessary – although they are obviously entitled to breaks by law. The care may be provided by a single carer who lives in permanently, or by two or more carers working on a rota basis.
Live-in care is an increasingly popular alternative to moving into a care home – especially for those who have higher support needs. It enables you to stay in your own home while ensuring your changing needs are met. For some people it offers a way of continuing to live as independently as possible at home in their local community.
Who might be suited to live-in care?
Live-in care might suit you if you need help with:
personal care, such as washing and dressing
preparing and eating meals
support to manage the risk of falls and other risks at home
caring for a pet
trips out, such as to the doctor or hairdresser
continuing to enjoy lifelong hobbies.
This option may also be attractive to people who find it difficult to adapt to change and could become confused by a new environment. This particularly applies to people living with dementia, for whom continuity and familiar surroundings are important and provide reassurance. Live-in care also provides the supervision that someone living with dementia might need to keep them safe.
You could also decide to arrange live-in care for a short time, perhaps if you’re recovering from an illness or an operation.
Pros and cons of live-in care
Here are the main the pros and cons to help you decide if live-in care is the right option for you.
Advantages of live-in care
Dedicated care: the main advantage of live-in care is the dedicated one-to-one care provided by a team of typically two carers.
You stay in your own home: in a completely familiar setting. While residential care can offer valuable support, most people prefer to stay in their own home if they can.
Peace of mind: you have the reassurance that someone is available to help you if there’s a problem.
Company: live-in care also offers companionship, reducing the risk of you feeling isolated and lonely. A carer can support you in your interests and hobbies, encouraging you to continue with them wherever possible. The carer may also be able to accompany you on journeys, helping you stay in contact with friends and family, and they could even accompany you on a holiday.
Specialist training: many live-in carers are specially trained to deal with such conditions as dementia, Parkinson’s, stroke, MS or palliative care. Some providers also offer live-in nursing staff.
Staying together: for couples, the cost of live-in care can be significantly less than a residential setting and loving partners are able to stay together.
Keeping pets: the carer could help to look after a pet that might otherwise be put up for adoption or sent to a new home if you were to move into residential care.
Less pressure on relationships: if a relative or friend spends time with you to help out, having a live-in carer can ease that relationship as they can then be with you in a more relaxed way rather than being drawn into being your full-time carer.
Disadvantages of live-in care
Finding the right person: the key is to find the right carer (or care team) who is properly trained and sympathetic to your needs. This can be a challenge. If you have complex medical needs, it may be difficult to find carers with the correct experience and training, although most live-in care companies provide good training and qualified staff.
Lack of residential home benefits: some people enjoy the social benefits of being in a residential home where they are constantly in contact with others, and may welcome giving up some of their privacy, so they can be freed from the sense of responsibility for managing their own home, even when they have help.
Cost: it isn’t cheap to have live-in carers on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, with the introduction of personal budgets it can be possible for live-in care to be state-funded.
Living arrangements: not everyone is comfortable with having a stranger living in their home and there could be tensions about living arrangements, depending on how it works in practice.
Available space: the live-in carer must have their own bedroom with a television and internet access. They will be required to have a space they can call their own and where they can escape the inevitable stresses of the role and have some time to themselves. This may not be possible if you live in a small home.
Needs of the carer: carers also need breaks, including holidays, and time to spend with their own families. So the personnel will change occasionally. If you engage live-in carers via a managed service, this will be less of a problem as the provider can organise short-term cover when necessary.
If you’re still not sure if live-in care is the right option for your needs, read about the other home care options to consider.
How much does live-in care cost?
The cost will depend on the type of live-in care that you choose and your individual care needs and requirements. But whatever your circumstances, live-in care is a relatively costly option. It is bound to cost significantly more than arranging domiciliary care visits for an hour or two a day. However, live-in care fees can be lower than the price of a residential home.
The arrangement can be cost-effective for couples, because they only have to pay once for a live-in carer, but twice for two places in a care home, for example.
You can either work with an introductory agency who will match you with a private, self-employed carer, or you can use a fully managed service where an agency employs the carers and makes all the arrangements. Agencies providing a fully managed service charge anything between £800 and £1500 per week.
Read more about the different costs of these options in our article on home care fees.
How to arrange live-in care
You can organise live-in care:
Privately, through your own advertising, in which case you would be the employer and responsible for paying the carers’ tax and National Insurance contributions as well as their wages (for more information, see how to employ private carers).
Through an introductory agency, which matches you with suitable self-employed carers and you then manage and pay for their services directly. Most carers from introductory agencies are responsible for paying their own tax and NI contributions.
Via a home care agency that employs its own professional carers and manages the entire service for you. With this arrangement, the agency employs and trains the carers, finding replacements for cover periods. This service is particularly valuable for people whose informal caring network isn’t close at hand.
Both introductory agencies and home care agencies are likely to be able to choose from a wider pool of carers, possibly helping you to find someone with similar interests to your own. They will also have a team on call around the clock to support both clients and carers.
A good agency will organise for a manager to fully assess your needs, and support you and your family with choosing the carers. This is especially important if you are living with any conditions such as dementia, Parkinson’s or MS, or if you’ve suffered a stroke or need other specialist care.
Where to find a live-in carer
Make a shortlist of suitable companies and contact them to discuss your requirements.
Many live-in care companies will be members of the Homecare Association. You can search on their website for local providers in your area.
On the HousingCare website you can search for live-in care providers near you - choose the Home Services category and filter your search by ‘Live-in care’.
Another source you can use to find selected live-in care providers is the Live-in Care Hub (liveincarehub.co.uk), an alliance of more than 20 live-in care providers around the UK.
You can also use an introductory agency to match you with suitable self-employed carers who are willing to provide live-in care.