Care Homes

What is residential care?

Understand the purpose, services, and benefits of residential care for older people unable to live independently. Explore the differences between different care facilities, and gain valuable insights into choosing the right residential care option. Learn about the support provided, costs involved, and factors to consider when seeking residential care.

 - 6 Min Read
Last updated and fact checked:
What is residential care?
  • Residential care is an alternative care option to consider if you can no longer live independently.
  • Residential care can be for short-term or long-term care.
  • Local councils may determine that you need residential care after a needs assessment.
  • As of November 2022, you’d be looking at paying around £600 per week for a residential care home in the UK.

What is residential care: FAQs

  • What support does residential care provide?

    Residential care provides comprehensive support to people by offering assistance with personal care, medication management, meals and nutrition, social activities, health monitoring, housekeeping, laundry, safety, and transportation. These services aim to enhance residents' quality of life, promote well-being, and meet our daily needs.

  • What is the difference between residential care and nursing home care?

    Residential care is suitable for people who need support with daily living but do not require extensive medical attention. Nursing home care is better suited for those with more complex medical needs who require ongoing medical supervision and care from registered nurses.

  • What are some of the benefits of residential care?

    Residential care offers several benefits compared to care in your own home. It provides a safe and supervised environment with trained staff available around the clock, ensuring the well-being and security of individuals who may require more support and supervision. You can also use it as respite care for people whose loved ones need a short break from caring for them.

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Residential care refers to care for people who can’t live in their own homes due to physical disability, mental health concerns, or other limitations, such as learning disabilities. It involves living in a residential setting, such as an assisted living facility or group home, where residents receive extra care to help with their daily activities and access supportive services.

How does residential care work?

Residential care typically includes a range of services and support to meet the needs of people living in the facility. The specific services they provide may vary depending on the type of residential care facility and the needs of the residents. 

Here are some common things that residential care often includes:

  • Accommodation: Residents are provided with a private or shared living space, which may include a bedroom, bathroom, and common areas such as a living room or dining area.
  • Personal care: Carers assist with activities of daily living (ADLs), including help with bathing, dressing, grooming, toileting, and mobility.
  • Medication management: Staff members can help residents manage their medications, including organising and administering prescribed drugs according to the prescribed schedule.
  • Meals and nutrition: Residential care facilities typically provide meals and snacks for residents, often prepared and served in a communal dining area. Special dietary needs and preferences are taken into consideration.
  • Social activities: Social and recreational activities often promote socialisation, mental stimulation, and overall well-being. These may include exercise programs, outings, arts and crafts, games, and entertainment.
  • Health monitoring: Trained carers may conduct regular health assessments and monitor residents' well-being. This may involve checking vital signs, tracking medical conditions, and coordinating medical appointments. However, nursing and medical care are generally unavailable on-site in a residential care home.
  • Housekeeping and laundry: The facility takes care of general housekeeping tasks, such as cleaning common areas and providing laundry services for residents.
  • Safety and security: Residential care facilities ensure the safety and security of residents through measures like secure entrances, emergency call systems, and trained staff members available around the clock.
  • Transportation: Some residential care facilities offer transportation services for medical appointments, shopping trips, or other outings.

It's important to note that the specific services and amenities can vary widely depending on the facility. You should inquire about the details of the services offered when considering a particular residential care facility to ensure that it meets your needs and preferences.

When to consider a care home

Deciding when to consider a care home is a personal and complex decision that depends on our individual circumstances. We may consider looking at care homes when we realise that we are facing difficulties with independent living.

If your physical health worsens to the point where you require regular assistance with activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, or eating a care home can provide the necessary support and supervision.

The different types of care home

There are two main types of care homes:

  • Residential care homes
  • Nursing homes

Residential care, also known as a personal care setting or assisted living, focuses on assisting with daily activities and personal care for people who require help but do not have considerable medical needs. Carers there offer accommodation, meals, social activities, and care assistant support with tasks such as bathing, dressing, and medication management.

Nursing homes, also known as care homes with nursing, provide higher medical and nursing care services than those provided in residential homes. The caregivers in a nursing home are qualified nurses and health professionals who can provide specialised care for people with more complex medical conditions or those who require regular medical supervision, medication administration, wound care, rehabilitation, and other healthcare services. Nursing homes can handle a wider range of medical needs and may have more intensive medical care facilities.

How much will a care home cost?

The cost of a care home can vary depending on several things, including the type of care home, location, facilities, and level of care they provide. 

Here are the average costs of care homes in the UK:

  • Residential Home: As of November 2022, the average cost for a residential care home in the UK was around £600 per week. This cost covers accommodation, meals, personal care, and social activities.
  • Nursing Home: Nursing homes typically provide higher medical care and support, which results in higher costs. The average cost for a nursing home in the UK was around £800 per week as of November 2022. This cost includes accommodation, meals, personal care, nursing care, and specialised medical services.

Paying for residential care

Residential care can be expensive, so local authorities may offer help to people unable to afford it. They’ll often conduct a needs assessment first to check if residential care benefits you.

Local councils conduct financial assessments to determine a person’s ability to pay for residential care. If someone’s assets, including property and savings, are higher than a certain threshold (currently £23,250 in England), they may be responsible for funding their care entirely or partially. According to the NHS, this threshold will increase to £100,000 in October 2025.

Alternatively, you can choose to pay privately for residential care. There’s also the option for your loved ones to ‘top up’ the amount the local authority provides.

Choosing a residential care home

If the council pays for your residential care, you’ll receive a care plan outlining available options. The information in your care plan will assist you in picking the most suitable care home for your care needs. The council has to agree that the chosen care home meets your requirements and is reasonably priced compared to other suitable options.

If your family members or loved ones can afford to top up the amount the council provides, you can choose from a wider range of homes. Local authorities don’t consider your relatives’ finances when carrying out your assessment.

Research the care home's reputation and quality of care. Look for reviews, ratings, and inspection reports by regulatory bodies, such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in England. Consider seeking recommendations from healthcare providers, social workers, or trusted people with experience with the care home.

Another thing to think about is the location of the care home, its proximity to family and friends, and transportation options. Ensure you find out the care home's visiting policies, including visiting hours and any restrictions or guidelines in place.

Understanding residential care

Residential care provides access to professional assistance with daily activities, such as personal care, medication management, and meals, relieving the burden on family members or caregivers. The availability of comprehensive support services, including housekeeping, maintenance, and transportation, further contributes to a comfortable and convenient living arrangement for people unable to live independently.

Image Credit: Kampus Production at Pexels

The content on is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construedas professional medical advice or guidance. Should you need professional medical advice or guidance, you should consult with such a professional in their relevant field. Likewise, you should always seek professional medical advice before starting a diet, exercise regime or course of medication, or introducing or eliminating specific elements from your lifestyle. We strive to write accurate, genuine and helpful content, and all views and opinions expressed within this article are specifically the views of the author.
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