What is a care home?

Care homes provide residential care for people who need substantial help and support with their personal care. Trained staff care for residents 24 hours a day.

Care homes fall into various types, depending on the type of care you need:

  • Residential care homes (personal care)
  • Care homes with nursing care (personal care with nursing care)
  • Dual-care homes (personal care, or personal care and nursing care)

See Choosing the right care home for more information on these different types of homes.

In addition to 24-hour care, accommodation and meals, care homes should offer suitable outings or social activities.

When to consider a move to a care home

  • If you need a lot of care, particularly if you need it during the night as well as the day.
  • If your care and supervision needs can’t be met in your own home.
  • If you’ve considered these other options, and none of them are right for you:
    • home adaptations
    • home care
    • downsizing
    • moving in with family
    • sheltered housing
    • extra care housing.
  • If you’ve had a care needs assessment and your care plan recommends it – see Getting a care needs assessment.

You’ll need to consider your wants and needs, and the cost of care homes too.

Benefits of residential care

  • If you’re becoming forgetful, the structured routine of a care home can be a useful anchor.
  • Trained staff are always on hand to help you. They’re experts in looking after older people and are experienced in looking after people’s individual needs and requirements.
  • Practicalities of living - such as meals, bills, and housework - will all be taken care of for you.
  • If you need specific equipment, such as stairlifts or grab rails, the home will have these; they’re designed to be fully accessible throughout.
  • It can be very demanding for friends and family to care for you full-time and they might not have the skills to do it – a care home would take the pressure off them.
  • You’d be safe and secure, which could give you and your family peace of mind.
  • You’d have companionship and opportunities for social activities.

Drawbacks of residential care

  • You might be downsizing substantially – your belongings will need to fit in one room.
  • You might feel you’ve lost your independence and your privacy.
  • There may not be much choice in your area, so you could end up having to compromise. For example, you might want a home which accepts pets and be unable to find one.
  • The ongoing cost of staying in a care home can be very high, although you may be eligible for funding from your local council. See Paying for care in a care home for more information.

Next steps

To find out more, see our Choosing the right care home page, or our How to find the right care home guide.

For advice, call our Helpline.

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