If your loved one needs care, you should know the difference between a care home and nursing home.
While they both provide elderly care, and may be easily confused, care homes and nursing homes cater to different needs.
Whether your loved one has basic or more complex care needs, there will be a service that can support them.
Let's explore the difference between care home and nursing home settings to help you find the best care for your loved one.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Care homes and nursing homes both offer 24-hour-a-day residential care provided by trained care staff.
- Care homes cater for people with less complex or specific care needs, who don’t require nursing attention.
- This is different to nursing homes which have a registered nurse on hand at all times.
- Nursing home prices are, on average, more expensive than regular care homes .
What is a care home?
A care home is a residential facility where elderly people live in a community setting with care support staff on hand.
Residents don’t need to do any housework, shopping or cooking and can enjoy a comfortable custom built environment.
They can also engage in social activities or day trips out with other residents and enjoy free time in common rooms and lounges.
This can be a great opportunity for older people, especially those at risk of loneliness, to build a peer community.
Confused about care funding?
What support is available in care homes?
Carers are available 24-hours-a-day to help residents live comfortably and confidently while being on hand to help.
This could include personal care or support with mobility issues, such as getting up in the morning and moving around during the day.
They can also support residents with nutrition and hydration, plus encouragement with exercise and movement.
What is a nursing home?
A nursing home fulfils the same basic criteria as a care home, what differs is the level of medical care available.
There are trained carers on hand 24-hours-a-day, but the staff to resident ratio is often higher to ensure that constant care is available.
A nursing home, as the name implies, has registered nursing staff who administer routine medical care for residents.
This might include medication support or treating ongoing medical conditions like cancer and dementia.
Often you will find care homes which have a nursing care service included.
What specialist care do nursing homes provide?
As well as personal care, help with feeding, hydration and toileting, specialist care provided by nursing homes includes:
- PEG feeding
- walking support
- palliative care
- Intensive rehabilitation
- 24 hour intravenous medication
- Care for bedridden residents
Who can move into a nursing home?
People with a variety of medical conditions, from dementia to learning disabilities, might move into a residential nursing home.
For example, those who require intravenous medication would need nursing care, as would those with long-term wound management needs.
This might include bedsores or leg ulcers that need to be cleaned and dressed regularly.
A nursing home is the best place for this level of care as residents require medical intervention and consistent support.
What is the difference in cost between a care home and nursing home?
The fundamental difference is that a nursing home has at least one registered nurse on site at all times.
This level of qualified medical staff and care is costly, thus the price of the nursing care can be higher.
In general this comes in at around £100 more per week than a care home.
However it’s important to remember that care home costs can be impacted by many other factors.
What factors affect the cost of care homes?
- The extent of the medical and support needs which require care
- Which care home they want to live in and the size and features of their room
- Where in the UK they choose to be located
- The resident’s finances, which has a bearing on financial eligibility for support such as local authority funding
- Whether the resident is eligible for any funding for nursing care such as NHS Continuing Healthcare
How do I know what care they need?
Get a care plan
Before you decide on where your loved one receives their care, it’s important to understand their primary care needs.
This can be done through a local authority care needs assessment, which assesses what care your loved one needs to live well.
If your loved one is struggling to live independently and wants to move, a care home would be the likely recommendation.
If you’re thinking, ‘what is a care plan?’ head to our advice pages to find out more.
This might include someone who has difficulty with personal care, such as getting washed or dressed as well as other activities of daily living.
But their care needs aren’t as great as someone who has medical needs which require constant attention.
Someone who needs daily medical help is more likely to be directed to a nursing home where they can receive complex care.
This will involve support with all activities of daily living plus medical care relevant to their condition.
My loved one has dementia, which type of home do they need?
Dementia care depends on the individual, including what stage of the disease they are in.
As a rule, a care home is suitable for someone in the early to mid stages of dementia.
There are also dementia specialist care homes that can provide tailored care and management of the condition, or care homes with dementia specialism included.
As dementia is a progressive condition, your loved one’s health will decline, but nursing care is not usually necessary until the later stage.
My loved one can’t live at home any more, which home do I need?
Where your loved one goes to live depends on why they can’t, or don’t, want to live at home any more.
They may be unable to look after themselves and need a high level of home care, which can become difficult to manage.
Where they go to receive the care they require depends on their care needs or any specific medical conditions they have.
Get a local authority care needs assessment to establish a care plan to access the right information about care and funding.
Helping your loved one understand the difference between care home and nursing homes
There are many reasons why someone might move into a care home, but it isn’t always an easy transition.
Maybe they have increasing care needs which can’t be supported by family, or financially it’s the most viable option.
It can be an emotional or confusing process which your loved one may not fully understand.
This can make it difficult to get them moved out of their home and into a care setting, especially if they feel like they don’t need care.
Are you worried about a loved one?
My loved one doesn’t want to move, what can I do?
While a residential home can be an excellent solution for people who struggle to live independently, it isn’t for everyone.
It might be that the residential homes nearby are not to their liking or they don’t want to leave a beloved family home.
They may also worry about not seeing as much of their family and friends and being forgotten about.
A home care solution with home care visits or live-in care may be more appropriate to get them the right care in a comfortable setting.
What is home care?
Home care is provided in their home by an elderly carer whether through live in care or regular home care visits.
These carers offer much the same as their counterparts in a residential home such as personal care, medication and hydration support.
If your loved one needs round the clock care, this can also be performed in the home, by carers who sleep overnight.
While this is an expensive option, it can be cheaper as well as less disruptive than moving into a care home.
Is there a hybrid option?
An alternative to both home care and moving to a care home is an assisted living facility.
Here residents benefit from the support of care staff and an on-site team if they need it, but are otherwise living independently in their own apartment.
This is a good option for people who want to live in a community but don’t have specific or complex care needs.
Especially as assisted living can be situated within a sheltered housing complex or retirement village.
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