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Care Guides > The Differences Between a Care Home and a Nursing Home

The Differences Between a Care Home and a Nursing Home

Care home residents and a carer

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

If you’re looking for a care home for yourself or a loved one, you might think you know exactly which type of care home you’re after.

However, although care homes and nursing homes seem similar at first glance, there are several key differences between the two. You may even discover that the type of care home you initially thought was the one for you isn’t best-placed to meet your care needs.

We know this can be frustrating at what is already an emotional and stress-heavy time, which is why we’re here to help you out. So, to learn more about the differences between a care home and a nursing home, read on for all you need to know!

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What is a Care Home?

You often hear care homes referred to as residential care homes – which are essentially the most standard type of care home. 

In a residential care home, personal care is provided 24-hours a day by trained care assistants, also known as Healthcare Assistants or HCAs. 

Residents in a residential home tend to be elderly and unable to live independently. They might require support with day-to-day tasks such as washing, dressing, eating and getting around. 

Residents could also have degenerative health conditions commonly associated with ageing. 

Even if care home residents have a physical, mental or learning disability, they may be able to live in a residential care home without frequent medical treatment.

What is a Nursing Home?

In a nursing home, care is also provided around the clock, but in this case it will be Registered Nurses, or RNs, who provide the majority of the care, often with support from Care Assistants. 

Nursing care may include things like wound care and intravenous medication, as well as medical interventions. Some nursing homes also specialise in a specific health condition, such as cancer, dementia, learning disabilities, physical disabilities or mental illness. 

For example, a specialist dementia nursing home will be fully equipped to care for individuals in the advanced stages of dementia, with the facilities and treatment to meet their needs.

If you have nursing care needs, you might be able to have the nursing care component of your care home fees paid for by the NHS – this is known as NHS-funded nursing care, or FNC. 

If you qualify for NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding, or CHC, your nursing home fees are paid for in full by the NHS.

What's the Difference Between a Care Home and a Nursing Home?

The main difference between a care home and a nursing home is that nursing homes are focused on medical care, whereas in a residential care home, focus is also placed on physical exercise and activities. An activity coordinator will arrange regular activities for residents to enjoy. A residential care home will have qualified care assistants but a nursing home will have qualified nurses. A qualified nurse will be able to care for those with severe physical disabilities, a complex medical condition or mental health issues - such as those looked after in a mental health care home.

Care in a care home

The other main difference between care homes and nursing homes is the price. As nursing homes require additional staff – including specially qualified nursing staff – staff training, equipment and the facilities to meet residents’ care needs and more complex health concerns, care costs are usually higher. 

Residential Home Costs

The average weekly care home cost for a UK residential care home is around £704 and the average monthly cost is £2,816. 

Nursing Home Costs

The average weekly cost of a UK nursing home hovers around £800-900, while monthly nursing care costs can reach an average of £3,552. 

Please be aware that these figures are only averages and you’ll find that care home fees vary across the UK, depending on where you live. Fees will also increase if you have more significant care needs.

Dual-registered Care Homes

Some care homes have the facilities to cater for residents who have both personal care and /or nursing care needs. These homes are known as dual-registered care homes. 

The advantage of dual-registered care homes is that the home can update and increase an individual’s care plan over time if their care needs change. 

This avoids the need to move the resident to a different home, which risks causing stress, upset and disruption to the person’s daily routine.

Independent Living

On your care home journey, you’ll probably hear about independent living. These are care homes or retirement properties that offer retirement-style accommodation in the form of a self-contained flat or apartment in a care home setting. 

Residents can rent or buy these flats as if they were living in their own private home – the only difference is that the building belongs to the care home and is located within the care home’s grounds. 

If you or your loved one can live independently and have no nursing needs, independent living could be a good option for you, as you can still enjoy the benefits of care home living, such as the dining, spa services, gardens and social activities.

Elderly Mental Infirm (EMI)

EMI stands for Elderly Mentally Infirm and is a term used for those who are living with advanced stages of dementia. 

Cases are assessed on an individual basis, looking at the person in question’s behaviour and care needs to work out whether they might require EMI care – and whether that care will be best provided by a residential care home or a nursing home.

For example, if someone with dementia is exhibiting aggression or other behavioural problems, or they frequently wander off and get lost, it is likely that a nursing home, perhaps with specialist mental health nurses who are specially trained to support that person and their needs, is the best option for them.

Which One is Right For You?

If you’re wondering whether you need a residential care home or a nursing home, the best thing to do is get a free care needs assessment.

This is conducted by your local council and will determine your care needs and the level of support you require. 

After you’ve done your needs assessment, you’ll have a much better idea of the type of care home you need and can start your search.

Lottie matches care seekers with the best care homes for their needs. You can request a free care home shortlist from our care experts, who will share homes matching your budget, location and type of care needed. You can also search for a care home through our easy-to-use directory.

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