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What's the difference between a care home and a nursing home?

About care homes

Wondering if residential care or nursing care is right for your loved one? 

Here we’ll explore the ins and outs of the services that care homes and nursing homes provide so you can decide which is the best option for you. 

Care homes, also called residential care homesoffer a safe environment for older people where they will receive support with personal care, like dressing and washing, as well as a busy programme of activities and opportunities for socialising. 

Nursing homes provide registered nursing care for those residents who need higher levels of care, whether that is immediate care following being discharged from a hospital or a long-term care need. As well as providing care for those with higher needs, nursing homes also offer social activities and in-home entertainment like residential care homes. 

The biggest difference between the two is that nursing homes have a qualified nurse on site round-the-clock, supported by care assistants, so they can provide a higher level of care. 

Explore more of the differences between residential care and nursing care in our comparison below. 

The difference between care homes and nursing homes

Care homesNursing homes
Care needsIndividuals in a residential care home need support with their personal care, and they might want a break from day-to-day tasks like cleaning and cooking.Residents in a nursing home will have a range of medical needs, and nurses provide medical care 24 hours a day. 
Team trainingOur experienced care assistants provide discreet support with everything from bathing and dressing to joining in with activities and outings. Our teams get to know your loved one so they can tailor their care to each resident’s needs.Our dedicated nurses are highly skilled in a range of in-depth medical services. That means if your loved one’s needs change, they can stay in the same home. We’ll undertake a care assessment before a resident joins and create a bespoke care plan which we’ll review with you each month.
CostCosts for care homes vary depending on your loved one’s needs, but generally costs for residential care are lower than for nursing care. The more care an individual needs, the higher the cost of care will be. Nursing home costs are generally higher because residents require more specialised nursing support and facilities. However, individuals can be granted Funded Nursing Care (FNC). Visit our page on what affects cost to find out more. 

Do care homes or nursing homes offer dementia care? 

Not all residential homes or nursing homes can support people living with dementia, but many of Care UK’s do. Whether your loved one needs residential dementia care or nursing dementia care will depend on their situation.  

Read more about dementia care at Care UK's homes.

Dual-registered homes 

Many care homes provide both residential care and nursing care. These homes are dual-registered and are ideal for residents who do not need nursing care immediately but who may down the line as their needs change. 

Does my loved one need nursing care? 

If you’re still unsure whether your loved one needs nursing care or residential care, consider whether they have any medical conditions that require regular monitoring, whether they have any complex medical needs, and their mobility – do they require a hoist to move from their bed? 

Care UK has care homes to suit every level of need, from residential to nursing to dementia care, and our friendly care support team is always on hand to help you with any questions.

Search for your local care home to learn more about the care we can provide near you.


Care homes, also called residential care homes, offer support with personal care. This includes dressing and washing, help with health issues and assistance at mealtimes. Lifestyle teams in care homes also run activities with opportunities for socialising and getting out and about. Nursing homes provide all this as well as registered nursing care for residents who need higher levels of care.

Nursing homes cater for individuals with higher-level needs who require round-the-clock care from a registered nurse, whether that is immediate care following being a stay in hospital or a long-term care need. You can find out more about the care your loved one requires through a care needs assessment.

People living with dementia can choose to live in a care home or a nursing home. Whether your loved one needs a dementia care home or a nursing dementia care home will depend on their level of care needs. 

A dementia care home will provide support with personal care for those in the earlier stages of dementia, but if your loved one needs round-the-clock medical care, a nursing dementia care home will be the best fit. At Care UK, many of our colleagues are experts in dementia care. If you’re unsure, speak to the friendly team at your local care home for advice and support.

A nursing care home provides compassionate, 24-hour medical care for older people, including those who have recently been discharged from hospital or those who have a long-term medical condition.

Search for a nursing care home near you.

Nursing homes offer a safe and comfortable environment where people who need higher levels of care, including those living with dementia, can live fulfilled lives while receiving the support they need from highly trained nurses and carers. Read more about nursing care in Care UK’s care homes, or search for a local care home.