Complete Guide to Care Notes in Home Care

Rob Scott

Written on 10 August, 2023
Caregivers create care notes at the end of a shift. This guide includes valuable tips on how to write care notes to a high professional standard for the Home Care industry. Find out more.

Care notes are a vital part of a care delivery framework and a must-have for any care delivery team.

Caregiver daily notes reflect clients' movement toward their goals, as identified in their Individual Support Plans. They also represent a record of events on each shift or visit, serving as a communication tool for staff.

By reading this guide, you'll understand how important it is to write daily care notes and what kind of information should be included in a care note. You will also pick up valuable tips on how to write care notes to a high professional standard.

What are Care Notes in Home Care?

A care note is a document created by support workers at the end of a shift and is an essential part of a Client's Personal File to document a client's care. In care notes, staff succinctly record details documenting a client’s status and achievements. Care notes are a tool for reflecting on clients' movement toward their goals, as identified in their Individual Support Plans. They also represent a record of events on each shift or visit and act as a communication tool for staff and families.

As well as being used in-home care, care notes may be used in community care, group programs, sheltered accommodation, and nursing homes.

Nursing Care Notes

Nursing notes are vital for tracking patient care, communicating between healthcare professionals, and streamlining the process of writing these essential records. Here's how to approach them:

  • Timely Updates: They can be updated in real-time or at the end of a shift, helping to create a continuous and coherent picture of patient care.

  • Detail-Oriented: Include specifics about care, changes in condition, medication, and any incidents. The importance of accurate and detailed nursing notes cannot be overstated, as they ensure all team members are fully informed and can make sound clinical decisions.

  • Streamlining Process: With advances in technology and standardized methodologies, the process of writing nursing progress notes can be more efficient and consistent. By utilizing appropriate tools and guidelines, nurses can focus more on patient care and less on administrative tasks.

  • Legal Compliance: Understand that nursing progress notes function as legal and medical records and must be treated with accuracy and confidentiality. Precise and comprehensive documentation can also protect healthcare providers in legal matters.

  • Patient and Family Engagement: Share appropriate information with patients and their loved ones to foster trust and cooperation. Engaging with the patient and family helps in building rapport and facilitates more personalized care.

By focusing on these aspects, home health nursing professionals can enhance the quality of care, improve communication within the healthcare team, and ensure that the documentation process is both efficient and effective.

How are Nursing Care Notes Used?

As used in home care, nursing care notes are an essential record for improving the quality of care and support. They also function as legal and medical records and can be shared with both the patient or resident and their loved ones.

Nursing care notes can be updated in real time or completed at the end of the nurse’s shift. They should include patient care details, any changes in their condition or medication, and any incidents.

Care Notes in Home Care: An Essential Tool

For home care agencies, care notes help ensure older people receive consistent, high-quality care. They are a legal record that details the care the client receives, their health, and any important changes. Day to day, they allow caregivers to communicate in-team about the client’s condition.

Care notes are particularly helpful when clients have memory loss, as they serve as a tool for communication between the client, their loved ones, and carers. Family and friends can receive regular updates about the client’s activities. Moreover, the contents of the care notes can be used to navigate conversations without making the client feel uncomfortable about forgetting things.

Why do we Write Care Notes?

We record and file care notes for the following reasons:

  1. Care notes act as proof of service delivery.

  2. Care notes constitute a legal record.

    Care notes become part of a patient’s permanent legal record. Care notes may be used in legal proceedings, audits, and investigations. They also provide a paper trail in case of conflict or difficult situations.

    It is mandatory to report incidents (and alleged incidents) directly or via a supervisor, manager, specified person, or member of the provider’s key personnel.

    Reportable incidents and allegations include:

    • Injury

    • Alleged abuse and/or neglect by a worker, another participant, a family member, another service provider, visitors, members of the community, etc.

    • Unlawful sexual or physical contact or assault.

    • Sexual misconduct.

    • Unauthorized use of restrictive practice.

    • Death

    Care notes recorded in the ShiftCare app may be used as evidence.

    If you are unsure of whether to report an incident or allegation, report it! The relevant personnel will decide what (if any) action is needed.

  3. Care notes link service to care plans and help in preparing client’s plan review:

    Care notes link service and progress to the client’s overall plan, to client goals, and to individual strategies. Information from care notes can be used to write client progress reports, which usually need to be submitted every 12 months. These reports help aged care decision-makers with progress and care plan reviews, which, in turn, help guide the carers whose work it is to implement participant goals.

  4. Sharing Information

    Caregiver daily notes can be used to share information between carers, families, and coordinators (including team leaders and managers) so that all interested parties can keep abreast of changes in patient status, routines, and needs.

    For in-home services, progress notes play a vital role in ensuring transparency of care between care teams, as well as for primary carers.

    Care notes can act as handover notes for next shift staff.

    Here are some simple examples that demonstrate how sharing information recorded during care visits can be helpful:

    Sharing information between different carers:

    A carer working with a patient in the morning records in a progress note that the patient has not eaten their breakfast. The carer coming on shift with the same patient in the afternoon has access to that information and can make sure that the patient eats lunch.

    Sharing information between care workers and families:

    A care worker goes out shopping with a dementia patient and records the experience, including what was purchased. Having read the notes, the patient’s family can use the information as a point of conversation. Without context, it may be hard for a dementia patient to remember the morning visit to the shop, and it could frustrate them when the topic is raised. Having read the care note, a family member can pose a detailed question: “How was shopping? I understand you bought new cushions, what colour are they?” This creates a more rewarding experience for both the patient and their family.


How to Write Care Notes

A care note is by no means the entire record of the visit. It is simply a snapshot of what transpired, including the most significant factual information. If the carer is already familiar with the client’s routines and behavior, the main point is to note any deviation from the client’s normal routines and patterns.

Care notes are partly generic; for example, comments on a patient’s physical state and emotional well-being are likely to be appropriate whether the setting is mental health care, disability care, dementia care, or any kind of nursing context. Beyond this, care notes should also relate to a client’s plan, their individual goals, and strategies.

All care notes must include:

  • Your name.

  • The date and time.

  • Details of any reportable incidents or alleged incidents, including those involving peers or others, and details of witnesses, if there are any.

Other types of information that it may be appropriate to record in care notes, depending on the specific home care situation, include:

  • Visits from health professionals.

  • Changes emotional well-being.

  • Carer interventions and assistance given.

  • Changes in behavior.

  • Degree of participation in activities.

  • Behavior of concern (what happened before, during, and after).

  • Reactions to medications.

  • Concerning changes in physical appearance.

  • Dietary notes.

Here are some important guidelines to consider when making care notes:

  • Care notes should be recorded at the end of every shift.

  • Care notes can be written by hand or typed.

  • Write down events in the order in which they happened.

  • Include both positive and negative occurrences and anything out of the ordinary.

  • Record errors made by caregivers - even your errors!

  • Keep in mind the goals in the client’s plan. You may wish to work from different progress notes templates for different patients.

  • Write concisely so that others can easily scan the information. At the same time;

  • Notes need to include enough information so that others can understand what happened.

  • Where significant, state what occurred before, during, and after an incident.

  • Use plain language that any adult would be able to understand (even if they have no specialist knowledge, speak English as a second language, or have a learning disability).

  • Consider using the STAR model to record information: Setting, Trigger, Action, Result.

  • Be specific. For example: “At 3:45 pm Jane’s temperature was 39 degrees”, not just, “Jane had a fever this afternoon”.

  • Accurately describe the types of assistance given during each activity. E.g. Verbal cues or hand-over-hand assistance.

  • Write using the ‘active voice’ rather than ‘passive voice’. The active voice places the focus on the doer of the action:Active VoicePassive VoiceMr Ryan refused to eat breakfast.Breakfast was refused by Mr Ryan.Staff helped Mrs Bradford to get dressed.Mrs Bradford was helped to get dressed by the staff.Carer found Ms Smith on the bedroom floor.Ms Smith was found on the bedroom floor.The nurse changed Mrs Clair’s sheets.Mrs Clair’s sheets were changed by the nurse

Here are examples of objective and subjective writing taken from the same workbook:

Example of objective writing:

“At 3.30 pm, Marcella returned from a walk to Albert Street Park, and she was holding her right arm against her body. She had a graze and bruise on her right arm. Marcella said a dog had jumped on her when she was sitting on the grass at the park. She said she had been frightened and that her arm was sore.”

Example of subjective writing:

“Marcella must have bumped into something when she went on a walk to Albert Street Park, as she has grazed skin and a bruise on her arm. She was holding her arm and looked unhappy.”

Different Model Approaches to Writing Care Notes

SOAP Method

SOAP notes are a commonly used method for recording progress, particularly in medical and healthcare settings. SOAP stands for Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan:

  • Subjective: This includes the patient's expression of how they feel, including symptoms and concerns.

  • Objective: Record observable and measurable data, such as vital signs, test results, and physical examination findings.

  • Assessment: This is the professional's interpretation of subjective and objective information, leading to a diagnosis or identification of the problem.

  • Plan: Detail the planned treatment, interventions, or actions to address the issue.

SOAP notes promote consistency and clarity, ensuring that critical information is not overlooked.

STAR Method

The STAR method is a structured approach to documenting or describing situations, often used in interviews, performance management, or clinical settings. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result:

  • Situation: Describe the context or setting in which a specific event occurred. This should provide enough detail for the reader to understand the background.

  • Task: Explain the task or challenge that was at hand. This could be a problem that needed solving, a goal that needed achieving, or a responsibility assigned to an individual or team.

  • Action: Outline the actions that were taken to address the task or challenge. This should include specific steps, decisions, or behaviors, not general statements.

  • Result: Conclude with the result of the actions. This could include outcomes, what was achieved, what was learned, or any impacts on broader goals or objectives.

The STAR method helps to create clear and concise narratives, whether in clinical notes, performance reviews or when describing experiences. By focusing on these four elements, professionals can ensure that their descriptions are both comprehensive and focused on essential details.

In a clinical setting, STAR can be used to detail interventions, patient interactions, or responses to particular treatments or behaviors. It helps in creating a clear and objective picture of events, decisions, actions, and outcomes, promoting effective communication and documentation.

Other Care Note Methodologies

When it comes to methods used to write caregiver daily notes, SOAP and STAR are the more popular models used by home care & home health agencies. However, there are other methodologies and frameworks worth mentioning that may vary depending on the healthcare setting, patient population, or specific clinical needs:

  1. DAR (Data, Action, Response): This is a streamlined and focused method of documentation, focusing on the data (observation), action (intervention), and response (outcome).

  2. SBAR (Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation): Often used in nursing handoffs, this method helps ensure that all necessary information is conveyed clearly and concisely.

  3. APIE (Assessment, Plan, Implementation, Evaluation): This method represents a care planning cycle and is used to ensure a systematic approach to patient care.

  4. CBE (Charting by Exception): Rather than documenting everything, CBE focuses on documenting deviations from established norms or expected findings, making the documentation process more efficient.

  5. FOCUS Charting (F-DAR: Focus, Data, Action, Response): A patient-centered approach where the focus might be a patient's strength or a problem/need. It integrates assessments and interventions.

  6. POMR (Problem-Oriented Medical Record): This method organizes information around a patient's specific problems, making it easier to track the progress and outcomes related to individual issues.

  7. Narrative Charting: This is a more traditional and chronological way of documenting and telling a story in a logical sequence. It's less structured than other methods but can provide a more detailed picture of a patient's experience.

  8. Critical Pathway Method: Often used in managing specific clinical scenarios, this method integrates an evidence-based care pathway to guide the care process.

  9. GIRP (Goal, Intervention, Response, Plan): Similar to the DAR method, but with an added emphasis on the goal that guides interventions and evaluations.

  10. e-Health Tools: Many healthcare settings are using integrated electronic health records (EHRs) and other e-health tools that often have built-in templates and guidance based on best practices.

Different methods may be more appropriate depending on the particular context, whether it's a specific healthcare setting like mental health, emergency care, or chronic disease management. The choice of method could also be influenced by regulatory requirements, the need for interdisciplinary communication, or specific goals like improving efficiency or patient engagement. Understanding these different methodologies allows healthcare professionals to select the most appropriate tool for their specific situation.

Importance of Client and Family Involvement:

In the realm of home health and disability support, involving clients and their families in the process of care is paramount. This collaboration extends to creating and reviewing care notes, which can greatly enhance the care provided. Here's why client and family involvement should be considered:

  • Building Trust: When clients and their families are involved in the development of care notes, it fosters a sense of trust and partnership. They become active participants in care rather than passive recipients.

  • Enhancing Communication: Collaborative efforts ensure that communication lines are open and transparent. Families can offer unique insights into a patient's condition, preferences, and needs, which can be critical in tailoring care.

  • Ensuring Accuracy: Including clients and families in the review of case notes can ensure that the information documented is accurate and reflects the patient's true condition and experience. It also helps in identifying any misunderstandings or gaps in information.

  • Improving Outcomes: Family engagement leads to a more holistic view of the patient's needs. Care plans can be designed more effectively by including their perspectives, leading to better patient outcomes.

  • Empowering Clients: Involvement in the care note process empowers clients to take an active role in their care. It promotes self-management and responsibility and aligns the care with their values and preferences.

  • Compliance with Standards: Many healthcare frameworks and regulations emphasize the importance of patient-centered care. Involving clients and families in care notes aligns with these standards, promoting quality care.

  • Supporting Emotional Well-being: The sense of inclusion and partnership can ease anxiety and enhance the emotional well-being of both clients and their families. Knowing that their voices are heard and respected can make a significant difference in their experience.

  • Resolving Conflicts: In cases where there are disagreements or concerns, involving clients and families in the discussion around progress notes can lead to resolution and understanding, mitigating potential conflicts.

  • Cultural Sensitivity: Every family has its unique cultural norms and values. Incorporating these into care planning and documentation helps in delivering culturally sensitive and appropriate care.

  • Legal and Ethical Alignment: In some jurisdictions, client and family involvement might not just be good practice but also a legal requirement, ensuring that the care provided aligns with legal and ethical standards.

Good vs Bad Care Notes

Understanding the difference between good and bad care notes is essential for maintaining high standards of care:

Good Care Notes:

  • Objective and factual.

  • Tied to the client's individual goals and care plan.

  • Comprehensive but concise.

  • Follow accepted formats like SOAP.

  • Regularly updated, with accurate timestamps.

Bad Care Notes:

  • Vague, ambiguous, or incomplete.

  • Lacking specific details or connections to the client's goals.

  • Subjective or opinionated.

  • Irregularly updated or lacking in timeliness.

  • Non-compliant with legal and professional standards.

Using Software To Simplify Care Notes

Modern healthcare and caregiving can benefit from using specialized software to handle care notes:

  • Real-time Updates: Allows caregivers to record and access notes instantaneously.

  • Secure Storage: Ensures that all records are kept safely and in compliance with legal requirements.

  • Ease of Use: Features like speech-to-text can make the process of writing notes quicker and more accurate.

  • Inter-Team Communication: Facilitates seamless sharing of information between care teams, supervisors, and family members.

How is ShiftCare Revolutionizing Care Notes?

  1. Recording & sharing ongoing progress:

    ShiftCare’s Care Notes provide a daily account of each client, their illness (if any), and developments within their care, for all those who visit that client. Carers can use the app to communicate with one another, making it easier to assess whether a client’s health is getting worse, better, or remaining the same.

    ShiftCare’s App includes a ‘speech-to-text’ technology that allows carers to record care notes quickly and easily. The voice notes are automatically transformed into text to be submitted.speech to text progress note

  2. Customizable notes templates

    Every team may have varying priorities, and each participant presents unique needs. By providing the ability to create and customize templates, we facilitate a streamlined process for teams to capture and disseminate the crucial information they require.

    This tailored approach ensures that all members can function at their optimal level, focusing on individualized care and fostering effective communication within the team.

    customizavle notes

  3. Smooth & immediate transfer of handover notes to the following shift Caregiver:

    The care notes feature in the ShiftCare app provides a way of recording relevant, ongoing, and active problems. By sharing these notes between teams via the app, problems are communicated from carer to carer in real-time, with no need for a handover of physical documents or folders.collaboration progress note

  4. Private notes

    Manage the accessibility of notes by controlling who can view them. This process ensures that privacy is maintained while simultaneously allowing for sharing notes with specific individuals as needed.

    Such careful regulation adheres to confidentiality requirements and facilitates precise communication between designated healthcare professionals, enhancing the overall care process.


  5. ShiftCare keeps records of care notes for audit purposes:

    Care coordinators are responsible for auditing care notes, ensuring that carers have visited clients at the correct times, and checking for any concerns or problems that haven’t been reported to the office.

    With the ShiftCare app, all this information is available in one place. Records are stored securely on our server, and there is no risk of information loss. theft or damage. Records are stored securely on our server, and there is no risk of information loss, theft, or damage.

    Records of progress note

Care notes in-home care aren’t just a legal requirement. They’re also a tool that will help your business run smoother by ensuring good communication between team members. Most importantly, care notes enable you to provide high standards of care and monitor clients’ needs.


What is the difference between SOAP and STAR notes?

SOAP notes focus on Subjective, Objective, Assessment, and Plan, making it suitable for healthcare progress tracking. STAR notes, on the other hand, deal with Situation, Task, Action, and Result, often used for reflective practice or performance evaluation.

How can software tools help in writing care notes?

Software tools can streamline the process of writing notes by providing templates, automating repetitive tasks, ensuring legal compliance, and enhancing collaboration between healthcare professionals. They can also enhance the privacy and security of the notes.

What are nursing care notes, and why are they important?

Nursing care notes are detailed records of a patient's care, changes in condition, medication, and incidents. They are crucial for real-time communication between healthcare professionals and provide legal documentation of care. Accurate and detailed nursing notes are essential for patient safety and continuity of care.

Why is client and family involvement important in home health care?

Involving clients and families in healthcare decisions fosters trust, cooperation, and partnership. It allows for personalized care, respecting the patient's values and preferences, and often leads to better outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Are there specific legal considerations for writing care notes?

Yes, care notes must comply with legal requirements related to patient confidentiality, consent, and professional standards. Errors or omissions can have legal ramifications, emphasizing the need for accuracy and thoroughness in documentation.

How can I choose the best method for writing care notes for my setting?

Choosing the best method depends on the context, patient population, clinical needs, regulatory requirements, and personal preferences. Understanding different methodologies like SOAP, STAR, DAR, SBAR, etc., allows healthcare professionals to select the most suitable method for their specific situation.

Who has access to home care notes?

Home care notes are usually accessible to all members of the care team, including nurses, therapists, caregivers, and sometimes family members. Access may be controlled to ensure confidentiality and compliance with legal requirements.

What is a care note template?

A care note template is a pre-formatted document used by healthcare professionals to ensure consistency and completeness in recording patient care. It may include specific fields for various aspects of care, such as symptoms, interventions, and outcomes, and can streamline the documentation process.

How often should home care notes be updated?

Home care notes should typically be updated after each visit or care session. Consistent and timely documentation ensures that all members of the care team have access to up-to-date information about the patient's status and needs.

How do home care notes support the continuity of care?

Home care notes enable seamless communication among various care providers, ensuring that everyone involved in a patient's care has the necessary information. They help track progress, identify changes, and make informed decisions about ongoing care.

What are the legal considerations for maintaining home care notes?

Home care notes function as legal documents and must be maintained with accuracy, completeness, and confidentiality. They must comply with regulations such as HIPAA in the U.S. and any other relevant local laws to protect patient privacy and support legal and regulatory compliance.

ShiftCare makes recording, tracking, and sharing client progress notes easy, keeping everyone in the know. Sign up for a free trial to discover how ShiftCare’s progress notes feature can revolutionize your business.

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