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What is the difference between a nursing home and a residential care home?

Seeking care for yourself or a loved one can feel like a daunting prospect, especially if you are not sure about the type of care that may be needed. It doesn’t help that terms such as ‘nursing home’ or ‘care home’ are often used interchangeably, even though they can mean very different things.

Our guide will help you to translate the terminology, and know how to ask for the care that you need.

What is nursing care? How is it different to residential care?

Both nursing care and residential care are provided to residents within a specialist care home.

Residential care is suited to individuals who need a little support with their daily routines and personal care (such as washing and dressing), or help with mealtimes and routine medication. All housework tasks, cooking and laundry will also be undertaken for you.

Nursing care is an enhanced level of residential care, which may be required to support individuals who are living with complex needs or long-term medical conditions. Specialist nursing care will be delivered by qualified nurses, who can offer 24/7 hospital-standard nursing care, within a more comfortable, and less clinical, nursing home environment.

A requirement for nursing care does not necessarily result from living with a particular condition, but is more about the amount of support that an individual needs in order to live well with that condition.

For example, an individual living with diabetes who is able to manage their condition with tablets which they can administer themselves, may only require residential care. However, an individual whose sugar levels are more unstable, and whose diabetes is managed with insulin injections which they cannot administer themselves, will require more support and may require nursing care.

How will I know if I need nursing care?

The level of care an individual requires is referred to as a ‘dependency level’. Your dependency level will be determined as part of the care assessment which is carried out before you move into residential or nursing care. This assessment will look at everything from the support you may need with personal care or eating, to your medication requirements, mobility and wellbeing.

Dependency levels can go up or down, meaning that an individual requirements might change from residential care to nursing care, or vice versa. For instance, an individual who has recently had a hip replacement operation may initially need a very high level of support, but this could reduce as their rehabilitation progresses and they become more mobile. Equally, an individual living with a degenerative condition may initially require residential care, but this requirement could increase to nursing care over time.

Should I choose a nursing home or a residential care home?

Whilst a residential care home will generally only offer residential care, the vast majority of nursing homes will offer both residential care and specialist nursing care.

If you expect your care needs to change over time, it is worth moving into a nursing home which offers both residential care and nursing care, so that you will not need to move to a different care home at a later date to ensure that your needs can be met.

Your nursing home will regularly review your support needs to ensure that you are receiving the right level of care for your safety and wellbeing.

How can I arrange nursing or residential care?

Contact our friendly enquiries team on 0800 8174 990 to discuss your care needs, and arrange a guided tour at your chosen nursing or care home.They will help you to choose a nursing or residential care home which benefits your wellbeing as well as your physical health, enabling you to receive the support you need in an environment where you can feel at home.

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