Most of us know that when someone becomes unable to take care of themselves in their own home, it may be necessary for them to receive residential care. However, one thing many people aren’t sure about is the difference between a residential care home and a nursing home. That’s why we’ve broken down the key differences between these kinds of facilities, and how to tell which one is more suited to you or your loved one’s needs.
A care home is where vulnerable people are provided with both care and accommodation within one facility. Care homes are a place where people can live if they are no longer able to look after themselves at home, and where care staff can meet their day-to-day needs and help to manage medical conditions. Residents in care homes may need help with personal care such as bathing and going to the toilet. They can also be provided with regular healthy meals which they would not be able to make for themselves, and have access to leisure and social activities.
While most of the core features of a care home are shared by both residential care homes and nursing homes, the kinds of conditions which they are able to support and the level of specialist care they are able to provide is different.
A residential care home provides accommodation where residents can live either for respite stays or on a permanent basis. In the home, they can be supervised 24 hours a day by care staff, who are also on hand to help them to day-to-day tasks such as getting around, washing, dressing, providing them with meals, and ensuring they take the right medication. Residential care homes can also provide emotional support and social activities so that residents can spend time together and avoid loneliness. Staff are able to make sure that any advice from doctors and nurses is followed, and to look out for any signs that residents may need medical attention, however the level of specialist medical care they are able to actually provide within the home is relatively limited.
Nursing homes provide most of the same core services that a residential care home does, including catering and help with personal care and hygiene, but are also equipped to support more complex medical needs. At a nursing home a registered nurse will be on hand to provide residents with day-to-day health care. This could include developing care plans, monitoring residents’ medical conditions, administering injections or intravenous medications, tending to wounds such as bed sores and overseeing rehabilitation after operations.
Nursing homes are generally more expensive than residential care homes because they provide a higher level of medical care and employ staff who have specialist training. However, it is more likely that residents at a nursing home will qualify for financial assistance in the form of NHS Continued Health Care (CHC) funding. If a resident of a nursing home is eligible for CHC, they can have their care paid for by the NHS, and even if someone does not, then there is often still some funding available to contribute to the costs. At a residential care home, it is more likely that you will have to pay for your own care. However, you can receive assistance from your local authority if a care needs assessment shows that you require residential care, but you cannot afford the fees, although this may limit your choice of homes.
If you or your loved one has more complex care needs, requires regular medical treatment, has a more advanced physical or mental disability or is extremely frail then a nursing home may be the best option for them. Nursing homes are often the most appropriate place for someone to go after they are discharged from hospital after an illness, an injury or an operation, so that their recovery and ongoing care can be monitored in a safe and comfortable environment.
A care home is more likely to be the right place for someone if they do not necessarily need higher level or specialist care, but are also not able to take care of themselves properly in their own home. This is most likely due to age-related deterioration which has caused frailty and limited physical mobility. Some care homes are also able to care for residents who are suffering with dementia, although in some cases individuals with more advanced dementia may require the more intensive dementia care provided by a nursing home.