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Can A Hospital Force You To Go Into A Care Home: A Guide

George Griffiths

24 March 2021

Can A Hospital Force You To Go Into A Care Home: A Guide

George Griffiths

24 March 2021

There are so many considerations when thinking about your health and wellbeing in later life. 

Worrying about whether you will be able to cope independently or if a hospital can force you to go into a care home are significant concerns for millions of older people in the UK.

Let's run through some of the considerations as to whether you might find yourself unwillingly resident at a care home if you'd rather stay at your property.

Can a hospital force you to go into a care home?

In short, no. It is extremely unlikely that any medical professional will recommend any course of action that you don't feel comfortable with.

Doctors, nurses and care workers are all passionate about the welfare of their patients. That applies just as much to mental health and emotional wellbeing as to your physical care.

There are very few circumstances where a doctor might feel that it is their duty to ensure you are looked after in a residential environment. One of the few scenarios would be if you were unable to make sound choices through the Mental Health Act 1986.

However, on the other hand, it's also worth thinking about the benefits of living in a care home. You might be choosing between:

  • A long-term hospital stay
  • Living at home but putting your health at risk
  • Relying on friends or family to provide your care
  • Choosing a local care home

Should you require help with everyday tasks such as handling medication, cleaning, or washing and cooking meals, a care home can be an excellent option, particularly if you have a health condition or underlying illness to think about. 

You can retain your own private space, socialise with other people in a risk-free environment and have the support to live as you wish on your own terms, whilst continuing to do the things you love.

If you are ever advised to consider a residential care home and don't feel that this is a viable option or would like to explore other potential solutions to help you remain at home, you can always decide that a care home isn't right for you.

Your doctors will undoubtedly be happy to discuss how your care plan might look in a less supported environment and explain the risk factors to help you make a decision.

What are the reasons a hospital might force you to go into a care home?

Again, 'forcing' patients to undertake any change against their will is an improbable scenario. 

If a hospital were to recommend you need to be looked after in a care home, they would do so because this is the best action to ensure you have a good quality of life. 

Doctors will always consult with you, your family, carers, next of kin, or a representative with power of attorney first.

You can ask for the reasons, explore the alternatives, and consult with your doctor to understand their concerns.

Some of the situations where a doctor might decide that a care home is the only suitable solution to make sure your needs and welfare are adequately met include:

As an alternative to hospital care

If you have a medical condition that means you can't live alone and need round-the-clock care, a residential facility might well be a preferred option. 

That might apply if you don't have the budget for a live-in nurse or family members cannot cope.

In this situation, the medical staff would carry out a needs assessment to identify what care you need. 

Some families might opt to care for a loved one with a condition such as dementia at home but decide a care home is a safer bet later on if they cannot manage financially or physically

moving into a care home checklist

Diminished mental capacity

We’ve touched on this, but it is one of the primary reasons that a doctor or medical professional might be called upon to make decisions in your best interests. 

If a patient is referred to a care home through the Mental Capacity Act 2005, they still have rights and will be able to have a say in what happens if they are able to.

Your preferences remain paramount, so if you felt strongly that a care home is not in your interests, this could only be insisted upon if you were at risk of causing harm to yourself or others. 

This situation is therefore only likely where there is a severe mental health condition causing concern

Respite care

Patients can require respite care over reasonably long periods. In some cases, a doctor might discharge a patient following surgery or treatment but feel that they need social care and support to recover, even if they don't need to remain in hospital any longer.

For example, older adults with fragility can suffer from falls and broken bones far easier than younger people following a joint replacement. 

Therefore, is it essential they have proper respite care and help to recover movement until they are well enough to return home

Financial reasons

Again, it's vital to reiterate that any medical professional will avoid recommending anything that doesn't meet your preferences and will always have your care and welfare as their primary concern.

In some cases, if a person were reliant on community nursing teams or NHS outreach workers, and the local authority could not afford this on an ongoing basis, they might decide that it would be more financially viable to request a place in a care home.

This decision only comes into play where the local authority is funding care, and you would still have the right to decide on the care home you feel most comfortable with

How likely is a hospital to force you to go into a care home?

We've established that this scenario is not common. 

The NHS and the broader medical community is focused on providing assessments and treatments at home wherever possible. 

As such they would only recommend a care facility if they felt that it was the best option for your ongoing care, health and wellbeing.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, an increasing number of outreach services are available to avoid people needing to visit hospitals unless absolutely necessary.

Treatments are available at home, drop-in clinics, drive-through vaccination centres, and at care homes. This system avoids unnecessary travel and helps doctors and nurses to treat their patients with the lowest risk possible.

For many people, a care home is far preferable to a hospital and feels more like a home from home, with private rooms, attentive staff and support with every aspect of your day-to-day life. 

If a doctor or hospital feels that you will be safest and happiest in a care home, it's important to explore the possibility and remember that every recommendation made is solely focused on your wellbeing.

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