Britons are largely underestimating the realities around finding and funding care, new figures have revealed.
Many people expect it to take a week or less to find a home care provider or a care home place, but in reality they search for more than a month.
Data released by Care Sourcer to the Express newspaper found than one in five people searched for longer than two months and one in 10 had to wait longer than four months or could not find a provider at all.
People are also undervaluing the cost of care, with one in 10 believing home care would be free of charge and more than a third (35%) thinking a care home bed would cost less than £400 a week.
Around 15% of respondents expected domiciliary care to cost less than £200 a week, when in fact it would cost around £270 for 14 hours of care, according to Age UK.
Andrew Parfery, the chief executive of Care Sourcer, told the Express:“The results are clear – Britons are clearly underestimating the realities around finding and funding care.
“Not only do they expect care to be found much more quickly and easily than is really the case, in many instances they are having to eventually settle for care that is located much further away than they would have hoped.
“Part of the issue is that our care system is struggling. There is a missing link between providers and those seeking support.
“We think technology can be the answer by matching people to care providers in their local area and within just a few hours.”
Reacting to the findings, Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK said:“A lot of people’s first experience of the care system is during a time of crisis, following a sudden change in their needs and people are unaware of how the social care system works or what may, or may not be available to them.
“We know things are so bad in some places that it is becoming impossible to source care, even if you can afford it personally.
“Certainly, the idea that there will always be a care home or home care agency able to help you in your neighbourhood is not the reality for growing numbers of people.
“There are genuine worries that as we look toward next year we are seeing the prospect of total system collapse in the worst affected areas.”
The study of 2,000 people also revealed significant regional discrepancies in terms of how difficult it is to find care.
Families in Wales have to typically search for 42 days to make sure their loved one has the help they need, compared to 20 days in the North East.
Almost one in three (29%) had contacted more than four care providers before finding appropriate support and 20% had to settle for a care home provider that was located more than 15 miles from their home.
Four in 10 people are supporting their loved ones with informal care on top of the formal help they already received.
Others are spending their own money with 13% spending more than £50 a month just on travel expenses to visit loved ones in care, while three per cent fork out more than £100.
When it came to what people valued most with care, half of those surveyed say staff competency and compassion was the most important deciding factor (excluding location and cost) when sourcing care for a loved one.
However, stress, depression, anxiety and sickness are highly prevalent amongst care workers in the private sector.
A new report commissioned by the National Association of Care Workers found that more than 80% of adult social care professionals working on the front line believe their job has had an impact on their mental health.
To help tackle this issue, Care Sourcer has launched an Employee Assistance Programme free to all care providers.
The free programme, provided through Health Assured and initially funded by Legal & General, is available to employees of both domiciliary care and care home providers.