Home Care vs Care Homes: Which Is the Best Option?

| End-of-Life Resources

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When the time comes that you or your loved one needs extra care it can be difficult to decide what the best option is. Two options often debated are whether to provide care at home or move your love one into a residential home. Understandably, our loved ones will often want to remain independent in their own home with familiar surroundings and we don’t want to move them from the home that they know and love.

This is an emotional and difficult experience as it’s never easy to think about uprooting your ageing loved one. During this time, it’s important to think about what’s best for your loved one and whether home care is enough, whilst still keeping their wishes in mind. Weighing up all of the options and discussing them with your loved one and other family members involved can be a great help in making the best decision. After all, you want to do your best to ensure that your loved one receives the highest quality care and that they will be happy and comfortable.

In this article we’ll be discussing the differences between residential care homes and home care to help you decide which is the best option for you and your loved one. We’ll look at the different costs and the different services each option provides to hopefully help make this difficult decision a little easier.

Why might you need care in the first place?

As your loved one gets older they may develop age-related conditions that affect their mobility, memory, or ability to carry out daily tasks. But it can be difficult to know when they need care. Many older people don’t request care out of fear of losing their independence or becoming a burden, thus the responsibility often falls on the family to recognise signs that they need help.

It’s helpful to be aware of the following things when visiting or talking with your loved one:

They include:

• Missing important appointments
• Difficulty with walking, balance and mobility
• Uncertainty and confusion when performing once-familiar tasks
• Forgetfulness, including taking medication or recounting the day’s activities
• Noticeable decline in personal hygiene and appearance
• Dirty house, extreme clutter and dirty laundry piling up
• Stacks of unopened mail or an overflowing mailbox
• Fridge is stocked with out of date produce
• Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
• Changes in mood or mood swings

What is a residential home?

A residential home is a facility that cares for elderly people who have various needs, such as age-related illnesses or disabilities, or those who no longer wish to live independently in their own home. There can be many reasons why someone may wish to move into a residential home, such as the death of their partner, deterioration of their or their partner’s health, and also loneliness. Residential care is also available in different formats, including residential care homes and nursing care homes.

Residential Care

Residential care meets the personal care needs of clients, including things such as bathing, meals, and mobility assistance. A care home is often seen as an intermediate option where care support staff are available to meet more complex personal care needs but not specialist medical care. Thus, in a care home, clients do not receive nursing care but will have all other needs met.

Nursing Care

A nursing home is for people who require continual nursing care and also have difficulty coping with activities of daily living. Nursing assistant and nurses are usually available all day and specialist care staff may also be available. Residents may also receive physical, occupational, and other rehabilitative therapies. Some facilities also provide specialist care for people with conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease. Emergency care or complex specialist care will still likely need to be sought in a hospital


There are many benefits of residential homes for both you and your loved one. Many elderly people find themselves lonely as they get older and residential homes can provide companionship from other like-minded individuals. Many elderly homes also organise regular outings and events to stimulate and entertain their residents. These things can be particularly beneficial if you live far from your family and so don’t see them often.

Aside from company, residential homes can provide peace of mind, security, and safety, as round-the-clock care and support is provided. This can be especially important if it’s no longer safe for your loved one to remain in their own home, for example due to health or mobility issues. Therefore, you can rest easy knowing that your loved one will never be alone during a moment of need. Furthermore, in nursing homes, more complex support and medical needs can be met by professionally qualified staff.


Many elderly people are apprehensive about moving into residential care due to reduced independence. In some facilities, residents are not able to leave unsupervised and they must abide by scheduled eating and wake up times. This can also leave residents feeling isolated from the life they used to live and their family and friends outside of the facility.

One of the main concerns regarding residential homes is that they can be prohibitively expensive and the value you of your home may be included in any funding assessments carried out by your local authority (unless someone still lives in it). The average cost of residential care homes is reported as being at least **£41,080 **a year, a cost most elderly people struggle to fund.

What is home care?

Just because you need help with some daily tasks and the management of your health, it doesn’t mean you have to move into residential care – home care could help you live safely and healthily at home. Home care is considered the most desirable and effective option for older people, providing an alternative to residential care. All aspects of care can be provided in your own home, including companionship, personal care, and specialist care – even nursing care if you wish. Home care can also be provided on a part-time of full-time, live-in basis.

Full-time vs. part-time

Part-time home care can be provided for a few hours a day or through several daily visits or longer day shifts. This option may be preferable to those who need assistance with certain daily activities, such as washing and grooming, or at meal times, but do not require round-the-clock support.

Full-time home care is suitable for anyone who needs full-time care and wants to live in their own home. A full-time carer can live with you for as long as needed, from a few weeks, to forever, or even every now and then. People often receive full-time care when they need temporary support through a period of convalescence or recuperation, such as upon returning from hospital – this can also be much preferred to staying in hospital or entering residential care during recovery.

Types of home care

Broadly speaking there are four types of home care:

Home help and companionship

This provides assistance with daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, bathing, shopping, and transportation. Most importantly, the carer offers you companionship, so you have stimulation, someone to talk to, and someone with whom to do activities.

Personal care

This includes all of the above but also provides assistance with personal care, including bathing, shaving, oral care, toileting, and dressing. They can even assist with mobility, including moving and handling transfers, as well as diet management and assisting with medications.

Specialist care

A specialist carer provides a specialist service depending on your needs. It lets you carry on living your own independent life, whilst ensuring your personal and medical need are met.

This could include:

• Dementia care
• Parkinson’s disease care
• Stroke care
• Learning disability care
• Physical disability care

End-of-life care

Palliative care is care for terminally ill patients who are in the last months or years of their life. End of life care aims to allow people to live as well as possible until they die, and to die with dignity.

Auxiliary services at home

Furthermore, to meet your care and support needs, specialist practitioners can visit you at home in order to provide specific services, and prevent unnecessary doctors or hospital appointments.

These may include:

• Part-time or full-time/live-in care
• Social worker
• Podiatrist
• Physiotherapist
• Dietitian
• Occupational therapist
• District nurse


One of the greatest benefits is that it allows your parent to stay in their own home in familiar and comfortable surroundings. This means that they can remain with their local support network, including spouse or partner, pets, friends and neighbours. This also helps them to maintain their independence as they can do what they want, when they want.

Another benefit of home care is the cost. Full-time home care is often more affordable than residential care, costing an average of £30,000 a year or between £600-£1,000 a week. The value of your home will also not be included in any care and needs assessments from your local authority when calculating your funding entitlement. Part-time care will thus be considerably cheaper, and you could make considerable savings.


Home care does however present some disadvantages. If you use a home care agency, carers often change from week to week, which can be unsettling to your loved one. If this is a concern for you or your loved one, an introductory agency or hiring a carer privately may be favourable.

It may also be the case that your or your loved one’s home will need to be modified to meet the specific needs of you or your loved one. This may include fitting with ramps, railings, and chairlifts, which can be costly.

Finally, if your loved one is a social person, they may enjoy the social side of residential care that is not as readily available with home care. It’s important to consider the social needs of your loved one when making decisions on care. You may also want to consider adult care centres for your loved one to ensure that they receive the social care they need.

Making the right decision

Whatever decision you make, it’s important that it’s the right decision for you and your loved one. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and the most appropriate care will depend on the individual needs and wishes of the individual receiving care. You should create an open dialogue with your loved one and discuss all of their care options.

As we discussed earlier, your loved one may fear losing independence and control so ensure they are involved every step of the way and that you know exactly what help they need and want. If possible, this should also include letting them visit potential homes with you if you decide the residential care is the best option. Giving them the autonomy over their own care will hopefully make the transition into care much smoother and also ensure the care that they receive is what they want.

Author Bio

Guest author, Adam Pike, is the Founder of SuperCarers. SuperCarers helps families in the UK find the best care professionals in their local area, as well as providing the tools needed to easily manage the care. Their belief is that the best care is about more than practicalities. It’s about making a real connection between people.


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