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Residential Care Home vs. Nursing Home: What's the difference?

Do you need a care home or a nursing home? What's the difference? Why is it important?

Nursing and residential care - and the difference between them - can be confusing. Because the terms are often used interchangeably, it can be difficult to understand which better suits the care needs of you or your loved ones.

Both nursing and care homes provide round-the-clock care, meals that are prepared and served and any help that may be needed with personal care such as bathing or shaving. Our simple guide clearly explains the differences between the two and touches on some of the other care options available.

What is a residential care home?

Many people wonder what care a residential care home provides. Trained staff are there 24 hours a day, as well as a key number of qualified care assistants. These teams are run by someone with a Registered Manager’s Award or similar management qualification.

Managers are usually required to have some experience in care and many actually work their way up from being healthcare staff but don't need to have any nursing qualifications or experience. Records must be kept for each individual at the care home and they must follow a personalised care plan.

Residential home care allows staff to support residents with personal care needs such as helping them wash, dress, go to the toilet and engage in social or physical activities. District nurses will be called in when necessary to administer certain medicines and treat any complex wounds when they are needed.

What is a nursing home?

The services that nursing homes provide are all the care support that a care home would provide but with registered nurses on-site throughout the day and night as well. Residents usually have a medical condition that needs regular attention from nurses or doctors.

They can often be the best place for someone if they have a complex medical condition as the nurses are trained to recognise symptoms and changes in a person’s health. This means they are better informed about whether calling a doctor is necessary.

As they are often suited for residents with medical needs, nursing homes will often have specialist beds and a range of equipment to help people with mobility issues. Many will have experts in dementia care and other areas to give residents the standard of elderly care they need for the best quality of life.

Do I need a care home or a nursing home?

Nursing and residential care homes can both offer similar services, so it can be difficult to choose the right care, unless there are clear medical needs that would require a qualified nurse around the clock.

Someone with dementia, for example, may not require the intense care provided by a nursing home but just isn't safe living independently. However, if having district nurses visit is causing them stress they may be better having the flexible support of a nursing home.

There are also options, such as respite care and community nursing, which allow people to stay at home and receive elderly care. A variety of support can be given to individuals at home to help them live safely and independently and home care can ensure all their personal care needs are met.

This gives family and relatives the peace of mind that their loved ones are being checked on regularly and a break from looking after their relative. If you are responsible for caring for your relative then this short rest can allow you to go back to them refreshed and safe in the knowledge that they've been well looked after.

When looking into care options, it's important to consider what the individual's needs may be in the future. If you're unsure, talk to your doctor or care home specialists about the needs of your loved one and they can help you reach the right decision.

To find your nearest nursing or residential care home or to find out more about what care options are available to you, please click here.

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