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Whats the difference between a care home and a nursing home?

Residential care can provide people who are very vulnerable or have complex needs with a safe environment and the care they need if they are unable to get this while living in their own home.

However, there are a number of different kinds of care homes that provide different services, and it’s important to know the difference in order to make the best decision for yourself, your loved one and your family.

What is a care home?

A care home is defined as a place where personal care and accommodation are provided in conjunction. They provide daily care and supervision as well as a place to live for people who are not able to look after themselves independently in their own home. They are able to take care of every-day needs such as regular healthy meals, help with bathing and going to the toilet, and some leisure and social activities. In some cases, they can also help manage medical conditions.

What are the main types of care homes?

Most care homes can be sorted into two categories; residential care homes, and nursing homes. Both are in some ways similar but do provide some different services, specifically in terms of the level of healthcare their staff can administer. The key difference between nursing homes and care homes, is that nursing homes will always have a qualified nurse on-site to provide medical care or attention.

Residential care home

A residential care home is a facility that provides live-in accommodation and 24-hour staff supervision. Staff at a residential care home usually provide help with essential every-day personal care, such as moving around, washing, dressing, going to the bathroom, and taking medication. Residential care homes will also provide catering and usually social and leisure activities for residents in order to provide them with a good quality of life. This can be attractive when there is a situation where someone is finding it difficult to feed and wash themselves or to maintain a clean and safe environment at home due to limited mobility and age-related physical deterioration. 

Nursing home

Nursing homes are generally intended for those who are particularly frail or have physical or mental health conditions that require day-to-day medical attention. Residents generally receive the same kind of care they would in a residential care home, and also nursing care to meet their more advanced needs. A registered nurse creates and monitors care plans, and provides some treatments and medical interventions. This could include administering injections or intravenous medication, as well as treating wounds such as bedsores or managing recovery after an operation.

Take a look at The Fremantle Trust’s Nursing Homes and Residential care homes in Buckinghamshire.

Do you pay for nursing homes?

Nursing homes generally cost more than residential care homes because of the higher level of medical attention they provide, but there are potentially funding options available. Those with long term health needs can be assessed to determine whether they qualify for NHS continuing healthcare (CHC) funding. Eligibility is determined based on the level of need the patient has in a set list of criteria. If someone qualifies for CHC funding then the NHS will help you to arrange a suitable care package that they will fund, which can include paying for a nursing home.

If someone does not qualify for CHC funding, but is assessed to have some needs which require nursing care, or they are a resident of a nursing home, they can often still receive a contribution towards their care from the NHS. This is usually to pay for the nursing portion of their care. 

In this case, because only the healthcare provided by the nursing home is being funded by the NHS, it will be necessary for the resident to pay the remainder of the home’s fees. If they do not have sufficient funds, then the local authority may help to cover the costs. This will have an impact on which homes you are able to choose from.

When should you choose a residential care home?

Residential care homes are generally most popular with elderly people who are experiencing age-related health issues, such as reduced mobility and frailty. This might be a good solution for someone who doesn’t necessarily need a high level of specialist medical care, but who is no longer able to safely and comfortably live independently. 

There are significant differences between residential care homes, so picking the right one for your loved one is very important. As an example, you may want to consider finding a home where it will be possible for your loved one to have regular visits from friends and family.

When should you choose a nursing home?

Nursing homes usually care for people with more complex health needs who need daily access to care from nurses. This can include elderly people who require ongoing medical care, those with more advanced physical and mental disabilities or long term illnesses, and those in need of palliative and end of life care. Trained nurses are able to monitor residents’ health and provide routine treatments, as well as using their expertise to judge when more urgent or intensive medical attention is required.

A nursing home may be an appropriate choice for your loved one if they have more complex care needs and require frequent medical assistance. A nursing home can provide a more comfortable and less clinical setting in which your loved one can still receive the healthcare they need.

To better understand how a care home can support the needs of those requiring care and to enquire about a care home within The Fremantle Trust contact us today.


We have care homes located across the Buckinghamshire county. Learn more about care homes nearest to you:

Care home in Aylesbury
Care homes in Princes Risborough
Nursing home in Chalfont St Peter
Care homes in Amersham
Care homes in Slough
Care homes in Chesham
Care homes in Stoke
Care homes in Burnham
Care homes in High Wycombe
Care homes in Marlow