How much cleaning are home care cleaners supposed to do?

“Why won’t my home care cleaner move furniture so they can clean properly” is a common complaint we hear often at HelloCare. Many home care customers say they’re not happy with the cleaning services they are receiving through their home care package.

But where does the fault lie? 

Are the cleaners simply not doing their job properly? Or are the care recipients’ expectations too high? Are there good reasons that cleaners aren’t moving furniture at each visit when they clean?

Here at HelloCare, we set out to get to the bottom of this grubby situation.

Cleaners are not moving furniture when they clean

Our readers helped us understand the extent of the problem. In an online survey, we asked them, “Does your home care service provider refuse to clean underneath furniture or in hard-to-reach places?” 

We had over 300 responses, and almost 150 readers commented on the poll.

A total of 218 voted ‘yes’, and 85 said ‘no’.

So it seems our sources were correct: most home care cleaners aren’t moving furniture when they clean.

Readers’ opinions on this finding were mixed. 

Some carers themselves said they do move furniture, while others said they don’t, and many gave their reasons for not doing so. 

“Client directed care, we do as clients request. I’ve told my clients that I can do just about anything except go up on the roof,” one wrote.

“We are only there to maintain the client’s main living areas and nothing else. Families and clients need to understand this,” one reader wrote.

Care recipients also gave mixed reports, some saying they would like their cleaners to do more, while others said they understand why their cleaners only perform the services they do.

“My care provider does everything, but I don’t expect her to shift heavy items or crawl under things, and she is always willing to do other things that may not be on the plan as long as she has time. I’m very lucky to have the carers I have whether it is for personal care or domestic,” one care recipient said.

“I don’t think anyone would be expected to shift heavy furniture, a bit of common sense goes a long way,” another care recipient wrote.

Moving heavy furniture a “health and safety risk”

We spoke to Feros Care, one of Australia’s largest home care providers, to look at the issue from a provider’s perspective.

Rebecca Wilkinson, Chief Operations Officer, Community Services, Feros Care, told HelloCare that customers can direct as much of their home care packages to cleaning as they wish. 

“Feros Care develop a plan with clients so that the focus is on services that keep them well, independent, safe, and keep them connected with the community,” she said.

The focus of cleaning is on providing “essential cleaning of the house in areas regularly used by the client”. These areas include bathrooms, toilets, kitchens, laundries, living areas and bedrooms. 

Workers perform tasks such as cleaning stoves, bench tops and fridges, as well as mopping or vacuuming floors, dusting, dishwashing, changing bed linen, washing, drying and doing essential ironing, Ms Wilkinsons said.

Feros Care does not expect cleaners to move heavy furniture to clean underneath it “as it may be a potential health and safety risk”, Ms Hynes said.

“Staff are not intended to move heavy furniture or turn mattresses or change light bulbs or clean areas that cannot be reached safely,” she said.

Communication is key

Providers may need to spell out to their customers the level of cleaning they should expect in order to avoid disappointment. 

Cleaning is a strenuous, physical job often performed for minimal reward. Highlighting the health and safety risks to cleaners if they move heavy furniture may help customers understand why restrictions are enforced. 

If customers aren’t happy with the cleaning they are receiving, they can raise the matter with their provider, or even switch to a different service. 

But it may be difficult for home care recipients to find a provider that will encourage its cleaners to move heavy furniture for cleaning because the risks to staff are just too great.

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