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A care home or care at home?

A care home or care at home?

Comforting MumIf you are looking after an older loved one yourself, you may start to realise that they may need more help and support than you can provide. Being aware of the signs to look for and understanding the options available, will help you to feel more in control of the situation so that you can make the best decision for yourself, your family and your loved one when the time comes.

Seeing the signs

Chances are, you will know when the time has come to seek out extra care support for your older loved one. They may be falling more often, or, if they are living with dementia, their condition may progress to a point where you find their behaviour too challenging.

Dementia can also lead to irregular sleep patterns. If your loved one lives with you, this may impact your sleep and that of your other family members. Add to that the pressures of caring for your loved one, and potentially juggling your caring role and another job, and you may find you reach an obvious tipping point.

Long-term care options

We look at the two most common choices for an older person’s care – care home and care at home - and compare what each offers.

Homecare (also known as domiciliary care/care at home/home help)
Care home (also known as residential care home/nursing home/retirement home)

Carer/s come in to your or your loved one’s home during the day to provide care.

They may help your loved one with personal care including helping with waking up your loved one and dressing and bathing them.  It might also include preparing food, administering medication or being a shopping companion.

Your loved one moves into a home that offers the specialist care to meet their needs.

All aspects of your loved one’s care are covered, and care is available 24 hours a day.

  • ✔ The care provider will learn about your loved one’s care needs so that they know what care needs to be given.

  • ✘ Personalisation may be minimal because care is very time limited, so it will be focused on the specific care delivered.


  • ✔ Your loved one is unique, so they need care that’s personalised to their individual needs, preferences and interests. At Care UK, with your help, we take time to get to know your loved one extremely well, so that we can tailor all aspects of their care.
  • ✔ There is no limit on the time we spend with your loved one. We spend quality time getting to know them and enabling them to enjoy a fulfilling lifestyle.
Social interaction
  • ✘ Unless your carer is employed to offer companionship, social interaction will be limited to the carer’s visits, which will have time constraints.


  • ✔ Moving into a Care UK home is the start of an exciting new phase of your loved one’s life. Regular activities, outings and entertainment mean that your loved one meets lots of likeminded people and can easily make new friends.
  • ✔ Even residents who are being cared for in bed enjoy one-to-one time with carers, visits from therapy animals and more. Many relatives comment that their loved one’s social life is now far better than their own!
Keeping busy with hobbies and activities
  • ✘ Unless the carer is employed to offer companionship, the carer visits will be to provide specific care and will not include doing activities or hobbies.


  • ✔ Many of our homes have their own café, hair salon and cinema, enabling your loved one to continue to enjoy a fulfilling lifestyle in luxurious surroundings.
  • ✔ Each Care UK home has a lifestyle team whose job it is to organise and run regular group and one-to-one activities, all tailored to residents’ interests. There are visits from therapy animals, local school and nursery children, and regular outings to local places of interest – plus a variety of live music and entertainment from local performers.
  • ✔ We support your loved one to continue enjoying hobbies, and to even try something new. If they wish, they can lead an activity. Many residents like to help around the home too, folding laundry or doing some gardening.
Eating and drinking well
  • ✘ If the pre-agreed care includes cooking a meal for your loved one, this will be limited to the food available in your loved one’s home. As a result, the focus may be more on providing a quick, rather than a healthy, meal.


  • ✔ Each home has a chef-led catering team who provide three delicious homemade meals a day all tailored to your loved one’s tastes and preferences and made from the freshest ingredients.
  • ✔ Our catering teams work closely with nurses to ensure that residents who need extra dietary or nutritional support receive it.
  • ✔ We cater for all dietary, cultural and religious requirements. There are snack and drink stations on every suite in every home, where residents can help themselves to a variety of foods 24 hours a day.
  • ✔ Our dining rooms are laid out in a bistro-style with small tables, all beautifully laid up. The emphasis at meal times is on taking time to enjoy food, and catch up with friends. Relatives can also join their loved one for a meal whenever they wish.
  • ✔  Staff monitor what your loved one is eating and if a meal is refused, they can be offered a meal or snack later.  

Flexible care & continuity of care
  • ✔ The flexibility of your care will vary from provider to provider. If your loved one needs nursing care, this would require 24 hour nursing care, and perhaps live-in care in which your carer would need a bedroom.
  • ✘ There is no guarantee that your loved one will be cared for by the same person from one visit to the next. As a result, the quality of the care may vary and the development of a trusting relationship between a carer and your loved one will be difficult.
  • ✘ Depending on the availability of carers, choice of what time your loved one gets up and goes to bed will depend on what slots are available. Home care normal working hours are 7am till 10pm.


  • ✔ Our homes provide a wide range of care services, from residential to nursing and dementia care, so our teams have the expertise to care for people with even the most complex needs.
  • ✔ We review your loved one’s care on a regular basis to ensure it’s always meeting their needs. If your loved one’s needs change, then we adapt their care plan accordingly. They continue to be cared for by people they know and trust in familiar surroundings, without the disruption of having to move to a different home.
  • ✔ We focus on recruiting quality colleagues who are committed to staying with us in the long-term. As a result, residents enjoy the best care from people they know well.
  • ✔ Our teams work closely with local healthcare teams, from GPs to District Nurses and Speech and Language Therapists to ensure that your loved one receives quality, seamless care.
Keeping safe, staying mobile
  • ✔ The carer may encourage your loved one to walk around their home, and do certain tasks for themselves. This may vary from carer to carer. They can also support your loved one to take medication.
  • ✘ If your loved one is at risk of falling, a live-in carer may be an option, or you will need to organise some solution, such as a fall detection pendant for your loved one to wear.
  • ✘ You may need to have adaptations made to your/your loved one’s home for it to remain safe for your loved one to live in. The local authority may foot some of the bill for this.
  • ✘ If your loved one requires care at night, a live-in carer will be needed. You will need to provide a bedroom for them to sleep in.

✘ Many older people are frightened of being alone during the night. Unless you arrange for a live-in carer, care at home normally ends at 10pm which means your loved one will be alone.

  • ✔ At Care UK we encourage residents to continue walking around as much as they can, with a walking aid, and with support from a colleague. By supporting your loved one’s mobility, they can maintain independence and quality of life, and reduce the likelihood of falls. If a fall does happen, we are immediately on hand.
  • ✔ We use the latest medication management technology to ensure that your loved one receives the right medication in the right quantities at the right time. We also stay with your loved one to ensure they have taken it safely.
  • ✔ Your loved one’s safety is a priority for us. Our homes have the latest safety features, including nurse call systems and alarms in every bedroom, so help is only ever seconds away. We also use alarmed pressure mats for extra safety for residents at risk of falls.
  • ✔ Many Care UK care homes are purpose-built modern care homes, and some have won awards for their design. All our homes are designed to the latest care and dementia standards, and are fully accessible.
  • ✔ We provide round-the-clock care. We will check on your loved one regularly day and night, and are only seconds away if they need help – providing you with the ultimate peace of mind.
  • ✔ In a care home, carers are available on call through the night which allays any fears of being alone during this time


Supported independence
  • ✔ How much their carers will support your loved one to be independent will depend on the time allocated to the care visit, and the care arrangements you agree with the care provider.


  • ✔ All members of our home teams will support your loved one to be as independent as possible – whatever that looks like for them. We’ll support your loved one to keep mobile, to have a ‘job’ around the home, to go shopping or attend a group or place of worship in the community, to keep fit, and to make their own drinks and snacks if they wish.
  • ✔ How much cleaning and laundry the carer does will depend on the time allocated to the care visit, and the arrangements you agree with the care provider.
  • ✘  People with home care will need help to pay household bills and need to continue to maintain their home.


  • ✔ Each of our homes has a team of housekeepers who clean each resident’s room, and the rest of the home, daily. All of your loved one’s laundry and ironing is done for them.
  • ✔  There will be no bill for utilities, council tax or ongoing maintenance costs for your loved one to worry about.


Here for you

Care UK has a number of guides for family carers, including A Helping Hand, which covers the topic of caring for an older loved one, and considering care for the future.

The NHS also has a range of resources and guides.

If you’d like to speak to one of our friendly team about care for yourself or a loved one, please call us on 0330 1271 481.