Learn about residential care

First published on 23 of March 2018 • Updated 11 of April 2018

If you need care for most of every day, and perhaps during the night as well, a visiting care worker may no longer be able to do enough for you. At this point you have two options for receiving all the support you need. You can either

  • Hire a live-in care worker (who lives with you 24/7), or
  • Move into residential care (i.e. a care home or nursing home)

Here we’ll look at the second of those two options. Residential care tends to be very expensive and the decision to move into a home is hard to reverse, so you should think carefully before committing to it. 

When might you need residential care

If you are currently receiving many hours of homecare per week and the costs are rising, it may reach the point at which residential care costs about the same or less. Generally speaking, residential care is more affordable than a full-time live-in carer (although you may not qualify for as much financial help). A purpose-built care home can also provide a safer environment if it has become difficult to manage in your own home. It can also be more sociable if you are prone to feeling lonely.

What does residential care provide?

When you move into residential care, you will have a room of your own with space for some of your belongings. Some rooms come with an en-suite toilet or bathroom and a TV, though you often have to bring your own electrical devices like TVs, radios and computers.

Residential homes are specifically designed to be safe, secure and comfortable for people who need care. A home with a high CQC rating should be clean, well kept, have social areas and be run by a team of friendly and professional care workers.

You will be surrounded by other people who need care. The home will usually organise social activities with you, helping to bring you and other residents together.  

Nursing homes

A nursing home is a residential care home specifically designed for people with ongoing medical needs (beyond simple old age). Among the full-time staff will be nurses trained to help with a range of medical needs, and there will be more specialist equipment available than in an ordinary care home. A nursing home will usually specialise in a particular condition, such as dementia, though other secondary medical needs will generally be catered for too.

Disadvantages of residential care

Care homes have improved a great deal over the past generation, but some drawbacks remain. Consider the following when making your decision:

  • You may lose more of your independence than you would being cared for at home
  • It may take some time to feel at home in your new surroundings
  • You will be living with other residents, which may or may not suit you
  • You might see less of your friends and family
  • If you have pets, you might not be able to take them with you
  • If you need care but your spouse doesn’t, you may have to live separately
  • Residential care is expensive and usually means selling your home

In most cases, it is worth exploring the possibilities of homecare for as long as possible before making the major decision to move into residential care. It’s a good idea to speak to a financial adviser to help you understand your options for funding your care.

Finding a good residential care home

Naturally you will want your care to be the best it can reasonably be. Fortunately there is a simple way to compare different care providers, by looking at the regulator’s website. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates both residential care and homecare (along with many other services), so this should be a port of call when searching for a suitable care home.

If your local authority is paying for your care, you must choose a home that costs the agreed reasonable amount. But if you are funding it yourself, or with a supplement from the local authority, you’ll have much more choice.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Location (e.g. is it close to your friends and family?)
  • Visiting arrangements
  • Catering (do you like the food?)
  • Social activities
  • Atmosphere (can you see yourself living there?)

When visiting prospective care homes, ask as many questions as you can about the services they provide, including how they enable your independence, how the care workers are trained and how they will manage your care plan. You can even ask to stay in the care home for a night or two to try it out, before making a final decision.

Is residential care right for me?

Different types of care suit different circumstances and personalities – there is no one type of care that suits everyone. In the end, only you can decide whether you’ll be happier in residential care or receiving care at home. Don’t forget you can receive a free care assessment from your local authority to help you work out the best kind of care for you.

Let us match you to your perfect care provider