Care Guides > What is a Care Home?

What is a Care Home?

What is a care home
Will Donnelly profile image
6/23/2022

This is one of the most common queries that care seekers ask. With numerous types of care homes to choose between, searching for one online can quickly become confusing, as people find themselves lost in a deluge of costs, care packages, perks and facilities that each one has to offer.

With this in mind, what is a care home? In this article, we’ve explained exactly that, along with the different types, how to choose a care home, when to consider a care home, how much they cost and what it’s like to live in one.


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In this article:

  1. What is a care home?
  2. What care is provided in a care home?
  3. What are the different types of care homes?
  4. How to choose a care home
  5. When to consider a care home
  6. Moving into a care home
  7. Costs and fees
  8. How to pay for a care home
  9. Management and staff
  10. Living in a care home
  11. Are care homes classed as primary or secondary care?
  12. Care homes vs. retirement living



What is a Care Home?

The term ‘care home’ is fairly broad, which is why people often get confused when they start their search. A care home provides accommodation, personal care services and support to elderly people. They also provide this care to those who are no longer able to live independently in their own homes.

Because care homes are sometimes referred to as residential homes, you might have heard the term ‘residential care’ used for the care they give people.

The care offered, the type of care - personal, nursing or dementia - and size vary from home to home.

Smaller care homes cater for fewer elderly residents - say, between 10 and 20 people - while larger homes can comfortably accommodate over 60 residents.

Some will also offer social activities like day trips, while others will include facilities such as on-site shops, cafes, restaurants and more!


One of Lottie's care homes - Maids Moreton Hall


What Care Is Provided?

Care homes provide accommodation and personal care for those who require additional support in their daily lives. The personal care that these homes can provide includes assistance with eating, washing, dressing, going to the toilet and administering medication.

Several different types of care are provided in residential care homes. Some of the additional services offered include emergency care, convalescent care, respite care, short term/long term care, palliative care and end-of-life care.

Care homes also look after a person’s physical health by encouraging them to live an active lifestyle. This in turn can improve mental health and even increase life expectancy. Finally, they provide a roof over you or your loved one’s head, a cosy bedroom and three delicious meals a day, all of which work wonders for wellbeing.

There are plenty of additional benefits to living in a care home. If someone has been living on their own for a while then care homes can help alleviate loneliness and isolation, boosting that person’s mental health and wellbeing by giving them companionship and people to talk to.





What are the Different Types of Care Homes?

There are several different types of care homes to consider. While they all provide accommodation and personal care, there are specialist types of homes that offer additional services to elderly residents with extra needs.


What is a residential care home?

Residential care means that people live in a care home or residential care facility, rather than having a caregiver come to them. In essence, residential care is a term used to describe the general care and support received within a typical elderly care home. This can also be called ‘personal care’ or ‘assisted living’.

Depending on what an individual requires, residential homes usually provide personal care through a bespoke care plan. This can include help with washing, getting dressed, using the toilet, administering medication and getting from A to B.

That being said, the residential care required will differ from person to person. Some will only need - and want - a little bit of support, while others will benefit from round-the-clock care.


What is a nursing home?

Good question! Nursing homes are slightly different from typical care homes as they employ registered and qualified nurses and experienced care assistants to look after people who may struggle with day-to-day tasks and need a little extra help. This includes people with specific conditions such as dementia, severe physical disabilities or learning disabilities.

In a nursing home, elderly residents usually have access to round-the-clock medical care and nursing care. Nursing homes also offer care for patients with cancer or terminal illnesses, helping them to manage any pain and often stepping in at short notice.

The main difference between a residential care facility and nursing home is that nursing care goes beyond washing, dressing and taking medications.


What is a nursing home?


What is a dementia care home?

Those living with dementia often have problems with their memory which can cause them to become confused and disoriented. It’s also common to lose motor and spatial awareness skills, making it difficult to freely move around.

Specialist dementia homes look to hone in on these areas of difficulty to better combat the symptoms of dementia.

Some of the most common and effective types of treatment used in a dementia care home include reminiscence therapy - looking at old photos and other memories with elderly residents - music and art therapy, sensory stimulation and even aromatherapy.

These activities tap into the senses of dementia residents, prompt conversations and evoke the emotions associated with these happy memories. Dementia care homes may include specialist equipment like sensory tables. They might also have a sensory garden to further aid those living with dementia.

Dementia residents are usually allowed to bring furniture from home to make their bedroom more familiar and easier to settle into. Another popular idea that many residents and their loved ones are encouraged to create is a memory box filled with sentimental items and old photographs to jog their memory.





How to Choose a Care Home

To choose the right care home that fits you or your loved one's needs, there are several things you first need to know:

  • What kind of care is required - The home you choose needs to be capable of providing the level of support required to keep you or your loved one healthy and happy

  • What location are you looking at - Opting for a care home in your local area will make it easier for family and friends to visit while remaining in familiar surroundings

  • What’s your budget - How much money are you able to spend to pay for care? Care costs include rent, food, laundry and utilities. Some homes will charge extra for additional services like professional visits, medical care and hairdressers

Once you’ve got the answer to these three questions, you’ll be surprised at how much your search is narrowed down.

As we've covered in this article, there are several different types and styles of care homes to look out for. Our article on choosing a care home explains how to find the right care home for your loved one and what questions need to be asked on visits.

You can use Lottie’s care search tool to find the perfect care home. All care homes listed through our directory have been vetted by our team of care experts based on their care quality, home culture and ethical practices - so you can feel safe in the knowledge that they all provide top-notch care.

For further information, you can search for a care home through the Care Quality Commission (CQC). This organisation regulates all health and adult social care in England. They provide inspection ratings and reports to show how well a care home is or isn’t doing.


Signs of a good care home

The following are all solid indicators that a care home can provide an excellent level of care in a safe and secure environment:

  • The staff and managers have the necessary skills and experience to properly perform their jobs

  • There are enough staff that everyone has the time to properly perform their jobs

  • The bathrooms, bedrooms and building itself are all clean and well maintained

  • A wide range of activities for elderly residents are provided within and outside the care home

  • There are plenty of nutritious food choices

  • There is quick and easy access to health professionals like GPs and dentists

  • Any cultural, religious or other lifestyle needs can be met

  • Feedback from residents is asked for to improve the quality of care


Residents having fun is a sign of a good care home


Things to consider when choosing a care home

Here are some of the most important things to consider when making your choice:

  • How much does the home cost and are there any extra care costs?

  • Does it offer the necessary services and activities for you or your loved one?

  • Whereabouts is it located? (Both with family members and amenities like shops, cafes and local towns/villages in mind)

  • How does visiting and leaving the care home work? Are residents able to leave without staff assistance?

When you come across a care home that seems like a dream fit, remember that you can visit it more than once before making a decision.


Before visiting a care home you’re interested in, take these key steps:

  • Ensure the home provides a sufficient level of care for current and future needs

  • Check if the home currently has any vacancies. If it doesn’t, then find out how long the waiting list is

  • Read the home’s brochure and look at their website. Alternatively, call the home and ask to speak with the staff or a manager

  • Read the home’s most recent inspection report. You can either directly ask for it, or find it on the CQC website




When To Consider a Care Home

A care home may be the best option if you or a loved one can no longer live independently, if care needs have changed or if other family members are struggling to provide the necessary personal care and support.

While plenty of elderly people are more than capable of living on their own without any problems, others reach a stage in their lives where they become at risk of injury, require certain regular medication and develop health conditions like dementia. Again, at this point, a care home is something to be considered.

A care needs assessment can determine whether or not a care home is the best choice for you or a loved one.


Moving Into a Care Home

Thankfully, the process of moving into a care home is a fairly simple one. First, a decision is made which indicates that a person can no longer live independently in their own home - this decision is usually made through a care needs assessment that’s completed by the person themselves, a family member or the local council.


Once the right care home has been found, taking the following steps should help to remove much of the stress that comes with moving, along with wrapping up some essential administrative tasks:

  • Ask family or friends to help with the moving-in and settling-in process

  • Contact the benefits office (including learning or physical disability benefits) as these can be affected by care home stays

  • Tell any other services linked to the old address that you’re moving

  • Tell family and friends of the new address and let them know when receiving visitors may be possible

  • Let the new care home know of any health problems or physical disabilities you have


Sign any necessary paperwork when moving into a care home


Costs and Fees

The average weekly cost of living in a UK residential home or residential care facility is £704. Meanwhile, the average nursing home cost is £888. On a monthly basis, residential care costs an average of £2,816 while nursing care costs an average of £3,552.

The reason for this difference is that nursing homes and other types of homes (such as dementia care homes) which provide specialist care will usually charge a higher amount.

This cost is also affected by whereabouts in the UK you live. For example, homes in London are more expensive than those in the North West, North East and the Midlands.

‘One size fits all’ doesn’t apply to care, and the same can be said for pricing. Along with location and type of care, the cost of a care home is also affected by the amount of care your loved one requires. Some provide higher levels of care to deal with more complex conditions and will charge more as a result.

Certain facilities and services may also entail additional care home fees, so be sure to keep an eye out for these.


How To Pay For A Care Home

You can choose to pay for care yourself if you’re able to afford it or don’t want a financial assessment.

Alternatively, you can contact social services at your local council and ask for a needs assessment.

The local council won’t look at your relative’s finances when assessing you or a loved one. With that being said, if your family are able to help pay towards the cost of care then they can add to the money provided by local councils - this is known as a top-up fee.

When eligible for funding support, your local authority will calculate the overall cost of care and figure out how much you need to contribute to the overall cost from your financial resources.


Management and Staff

Care homes usually have one head manager and a deputy manager in a supporting role. Care home managers are responsible for the leadership and day-to-day running of the home.

It’s their job to provide information and advice to elderly residents, families and staff while monitoring the performance of the care home and its care quality. Managers also agree on contracts and budgeting with residents while developing policies and practices to keep residents and their confidentiality safe. Finally, managers recruit, train/supervise all staff at the home and look after fundraising.


Care home staff


Because care home staff will provide the initial interaction for somebody visiting a care home, excellent people skills are a must. Good care staff are compassionate, friendly, kind, warm and in possession of strong personal care skills – and medical care knowledge if needed. Care staff are responsible for caring and attending to residents, listening to them, making them laugh and resolving any issues they might have.


Staff receive qualifications before they can work in a care home and are regularly upskilled and further trained to deal with specific health conditions, equipment and the safe administering of medication. Qualifications include:

  • Disclosure and Barring Service Clearance - This certification allows someone to work with vulnerable adults

  • Care Certificate - This 12-week introductory course must be taken by all new employees before they can begin work

  • NMC Pin Number - In nursing homes, staff must be registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and have been given their unique PIN




Living in a Care Home

Modern-day care homes are a far cry from the outdated perception that many people still hold. The reality of living in a care home is totally different from this view. Residents are given cosy rooms which are furnished or unfurnished, depending on preference. En-suite bathrooms and personal seating areas are also common options.

Meals, housekeeping and laundry services are all provided, with many care complexes even providing on-site facilities that could include any of a hair and beauty salon, bistro restaurant, cafe, bar, shop or gardens.

Care homes encourage their residents to keep busy through numerous social activities. These range from arts and crafts, music, dancing and exercise classes to visits from respected speakers and entertainers!

Some will provide a minibus service - you can think of this as a privately chauffeured limo - to take residents on day trips and excursions to nearby landmarks, scenic views or neighbouring towns. Fun activities like shopping, museums, sightseeing, art galleries, pubs and restaurants can all then be enjoyed.


Are Care Homes Classed As Primary or Secondary Care?

Primary care covers the day-to-day healthcare that your GP usually provides. If your health concern is a little bit more serious or may require specialist treatment, then you’ll be referred to a secondary care service, such as hospital care.

Technically, care homes are classed as social care and not health care. However, because they cover the needs of residents with numerous needs and health conditions, they can be classed as primary, secondary or even tertiary care.


How Do Care Homes Differ From Retirement Living?

Another term you may have come across on your care search is ‘retirement living’. Also referred to as retirement villages or retirement homes, this type of property aims to give retirees an enjoyable and relaxing post-work living experience. While any additional care needs can be catered for, this isn’t always required by residents, with many looking to maintain their freedom and independence for as long as possible.

Retirement villages are housing developments built specifically for buyers who are usually aged 55 and over. They often come with a range of superb facilities that could include on-site restaurants, pools, libraries and shops. Essentially, they combine the independence of living in your own home with the added support and security of a care home where needed. Residents also have much greater control over furnishings and decorations within their rooms.

Within a retirement village or retirement community, properties can include flats, bungalows or cottages. The above facilities, along with numerous activities and being surrounded by like-minded people mean that a great social life is easy to attain. Different retirement schemes may offer the opportunity to buy, rent or part-own a home within the development.

Retirement Living developments offer safe and secure housing with retirees in mind. With Lottie, you can pick from several stylish retirement living options throughout the UK. Choose between 1 bed, 2 bed and 3 bed retirement properties with varying levels of care and support available.






Searching for an elderly care home can be a stressful and time-consuming operation. Thankfully, Lottie removes much of the difficulty from this process by connecting elderly people to the UK’s very best care homes through years of human expertise and smart technology.

Check out our list of elderly care homes across the UK and everything care-related we have to offer.

If you have any questions or queries then don’t hesitate to get in touch with our amazing care experts!

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