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What’s the difference between a care home and a nursing home?


Families longing the emotional stress of placing a spouse or relative into care, often tell us that they find a number of the terminology surrounding the different forms of care home quite confusing.

In response to a recent request, we thought it’d be helpful to clarify a number of common misunderstandings. ‘Care home’ may be a generic term that’s defined as “a small institution providing accommodation and look after folks that are unable to seem after themselves.” The term ‘care home’, therefore, broadly covers every type of residential care facility.

Some care homes are privately owned – perhaps by private individuals or companies – others pass local councils.

There are two main forms of care home:

Residential care homes

Residential care homes – provides ‘home-style’, live-in accommodation, with 24 hour-a-day supervised staffing for elderly residents, who might have extra help and support with their aid. for instance, help with things like washing, dressing, personal hygiene, medication, toileting, communication, feeding, mobility, and essential laundry needs, to call some. Residential care homes provide dining facilities, and infrequently include social programs and activities (eg music/yoga classes/art therapy/outings) for his or her residents;

Nursing homes

Nursing homes (otherwise sometimes called Residential Nursing Homes/care homes with nursing) – equally provide 24-hour care and support, as above, but with added medical aid and assistance for residents who require input from and supervision by a nurse, who is in place to plot and monitor care plans, provide and administer treatment (eg injections) and perform timely medical interventions. If your relative is littered with a physical or mental condition or frailty, qualified nursing staff are at hand to spot, interpret, and deliver medical attention. In short, a home is for people requiring special treatment during their stay.

Some other areas to consider:

‘Dual-registered’ – some care homes can cater to residents who have aid and /or medical aid needs. The advantage is that if your relative enters the care home with basic personal (and social) needs, but as time goes by, those needs change into nursing needs, then the identical care home can still take care of them during this transitional phase and beyond. This avoids upset, and therefore the need for upheaval and disruption to their daily routine, by having to maneuver to a unique home.

Independent living – some care homes also provide for ‘retirement’ accommodation – usually a bigger self-contained flat or apartment within the grounds of a care home setting, which you’ll be ready to rent or buy, and live as if you were in your own private home. Your home just happens to belong to the care home and be situated within its boundary. Such accommodation is more suited to individuals who don’t generally have nursing needs, and who are ready to live independently, yet whilst enjoying all the benefits and luxuries of having the ability to ‘dip’ into the care home facilities, if they so wish, eg dining, use of the gardens, spa-type services (manicures and sweetness salons, hair, physiotherapy), social activities etc.

A version of this story was originally published on

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