Thousands of jobs that no-one wants to do, like looking after the vulnerable and elderly, could leave care work in crisis, a survey claims.
Two-thirds of adults polled would shun a job as a care worker yet more than half agreed home care was essential in today's ageing society.
The results indicate the care sector could face a recruitment crisis in coming years, with a potential shortfall of one million workers in the sector in the next 20 years.
The YouGov poll of 2,044 people was commissioned by leading UK home care provider Home Instead Senior Care.
While 53% agreed home care was essential, 68% said they would never take up such a role themselves.
Just under half (43%) thought home care involves unpleasant and menial tasks, with 39% believing such workers are often treated badly by the care firms they work for.
More than a third - 34% - also thought they were too old for a care worker job.
Trevor Brocklebank, chief executive of Home Instead Senior Care, said his firm has 5,000 jobs to fill this year alone.
He said: "These misperceptions of home care are a serious concern - not just for care providers like ourselves but for the country as a whole.
"If older people are to have the future they want, living independently in their own homes, we urgently need more people to take on these important roles.
"We need to debunk these out-of-date views of the home care sector if we are to stand a chance of combating this crisis."
Home care worker and grandmother-of-five Helen McEntire, 61, from Dorking, Surrey, said: "Working in care is a fantastic thing to do.
"It's hard to explain the satisfaction and pleasure there is in getting to know someone who is alone or frail and to become their trusted helper and companion. It's anything but menial work, it's the most meaningful work."
Sharon Allen, chief executive of charity Skills for Care, which works with care providers to develop the care workforce, said: "We know our population is continuing to age rapidly and with that will come an increasing demand for person-centred home care services.
"This poll offers a real insight into the public's misconceptions of what a career in home care entails."