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What’s The Difference Between A Care Home And Nursing Home?

George Griffiths

30 April 2021

What’s The Difference Between A Care Home And Nursing Home?

George Griffiths

30 April 2021

When making important decisions about residential care for yourself or a family member, it’s essential you know the difference between a care home and a nursing home. 

While both facilities are designed to look after residents, the costs and medical support on offer can be quite different!

Let's examine both care settings to help you make an informed decision about which might be right for you.

What is a care home?

In short, both homes provide a place to live for people who can’t get around or take care of themselves independently.

However, there is a difference between a care home and a nursing home in the services they provide and the residents they cater to:

  • Care homes usually refer to residential accommodation facilities. While they typically look after elderly residents, they can also offer living spaces for younger people with medical conditions or mental health challenges
  • On the other hand, nursing homes provide the same support in terms of everyday living along with nursing care and assistance

If you or your relative needs help to administer medication and treatments, nursing homes are better equipped to cope.

The qualified nursing staff at nursing homes are usually on-call or on-staff 24 hours per day. They can act fast if medical intervention is required. 

Residents with severe illnesses or who require daily treatments will usually be referred to a nursing home rather than a care home.

It’s important to note that care homes can be privately run, or publically funded by local councils. The level of medical care on offer can vary substantially between establishments.

Which type of home can meet my needs?

A lot depends on the needs of the prospective resident. One good option is to look for a dual-registered care home or nursing home.

These facilities offer general care home standards, which usually means 24-hour supervision from trained care assistants. They help residents with everything from washing, dressing, eating, laundry and keeping active and emotionally healthy.

Dual-registered care homes can offer to expand their scope beyond personal and social care needs, and provide nursing supervision as required. 

This solution is ideal for residents who don't cope well with upheaval. They can remain comfortably in their residential room but have the additional nursing support to stay well.

Nursing homes also meet multiple other needs, and aren't solely residential care facilities for elderly patients. For example:

  • Patients of any age who are dealing with physical or medical health needs or frailty can stay in a nursing home permanently or until their condition stabilises
  • Residents with life-limiting conditions may live in a nursing home full time and have assistance with every aspect of their social interactions, physical health, and overall wellbeing
  • Some nursing homes cater to recovery periods. That could be mental health recovery following trauma, or rehabilitation if a person has suffered a serious accident.

    It might also follow a severe illness where a resident is well enough to have been discharged from hospital but needs daily help with their recovery
  • Patients with complex needs, physical disabilities or learning disabilities may also stay in nursing homes. There are some dedicated to specific types of patients or particular medical conditions

If in any doubt about which type of home is right for yourself or your loved one, it is wise to review their care assessment plan. 

Alternatively, speak to the residential facilities nearby to establish whether they are in a position to offer the appropriate help.

difference between a care home and nursing home

Are there trained nurses on hand at a care home or nursing home?

As we've discovered, the personnel on hand can vary. The most significant difference between a care home and a nursing home is usually that nursing facilities provide around the clock care from registered nurses.

However, some private care homes offer flexible care support or have on-call nursing staff to help as and when required.

Generally, staff on hand will include:

  • Health care assistants and qualified social care workers in care homes. There are also usually chefs, activities organisers, and various options such as social events and day trips
  • Nursing homes will provide similar personal care and have one or more qualified nurses on duty at all times. Care homes with nursing are an alternative name for a nursing home

Should you require a care home with a full-time nursing presence, it's best to check this in advance. 

Nurses cannot usually issue prescriptions. However, they can assess patients' needs, make plans for their care and manage the administration of their medications. 

They have more direct responsibility for the patient’s health and medical care, rather than general assistance with day-to-day activities.

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

Again, cost depends on many factors. These include the type of home, whether it is a private establishment, the quality of care and living accommodation provided, and the region.

Suppose you or your loved one qualifies for Funded Nursing Care (FNC). In that case, this will contribute to the costs of a nursing home, but not a residential care home. This is because there is no guarantee that the facility can meet the resident's medical needs.

FNC contributions are granted by the NHS and can only be paid to nursing facilities with registered nurses on staff.

Nursing homes are usually more expensive than care homes. It is unlikely, however, that a residential care home would accept a new resident with complex or ongoing medical needs.

However, care home staff can usually administer medication as prescribed by the resident's doctor. They also have access to district or community nursing teams, who attend when needed or on a regular visit pattern.

In short, the choice of homes will depend very much on the health and medical needs of the resident. 

While a care home is more than capable of looking after the vast majority of elderly residents, a nursing facility is a better option for anybody with ongoing medical needs.

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