By Alex Stevenson Follow @alex__stevenson
A good home care service is often only provided after complaints from relatives, according to consumer organisation Which?
Its investigation found that family members had to make continuous phone calls and have 'constant battles with agencies' in order to secure decent levels of care for their elderly relatives.
The research, based on the secret diaries over the course of a week detailing their experiences of home care, found what Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said were "disgraceful examples" of elderly people "being given little time or respect".
Food left out of reach, soiled bedclothes and missed medication were all uncovered. In one instance an elderly lady was unable to find food or drink after being left with the lights off.
"The government can no longer claim to be shocked as report after report highlights the pitiful state of care for older people," Mr Lloyd said.
"If they are serious about ensuring vulnerable people are treated with dignity, then we must see real action because every day they delay is another day older people risk being neglected."
At least one visit had been missed in the last six months, nearly half of respondents found. One woman could not get to the bathroom as she had been left without a walking frame.
Care services minister Paul Burstow dismissed the report for telling the Department of Health "nothing new about the worst examples of home care".
He insisted the government was already taking steps to address the problem, including funding work to train care assistants.
"The best councils are arranging care that concentrates on delivering the outcomes people have a right to expect," he commented.
"Kindness, compassion, dignity and respect must be central to care, whoever provides it and wherever it is provided."