Care options explained – it's the care that counts

One of the best ways of finding out what care you need is through a social care needs assessment carried out by the local authority (council) Social Services department. Following an assessment, depending on the care needs and financial circumstances, the council may provide regular direct support or assist with the funding. Failing that, it may be necessary for the person, their family or carers to make the necessary arrangements for getting the help needed.

Whatever the circumstances, it is essential to seek advice on what support and care is available and what means tested or non-means tested financial support is available.

If you are finding it difficult to manage in your present home, but would prefer not to move, there may be ways to make your life easier and safer. If you are finding it difficult to cope with daily tasks or think you need home care, special equipment or meals, contact your local authority’s Social Services department, or the hospital social worker if you are in hospital and ask for an assessment of need.

Most people who move into a care home do so out of necessity in the event of an illness or injury but some also do it by choice. Before deciding to move into a care home, explore whether you can continue to live in your own home with the right care and assistance. Alternatives to moving to a care home can include downsizing to a more manageable property; considering sheltered accommodation; choosing extra care housing or assisted living developments or perhaps living with your family.

It is vital to choose the right type of home. If a home cannot offer the level of support you need it will not be suitable. Care homes may be owned and operated by private individuals, companies, not-for-profit organisations and (some) Social Services departments. All care homes in England are registered and inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Inspection reports are available from the home or the registration authority.

Care homes providing personal care

These are often called residential care homes. They vary in size and facilities but all are expected to provide a room, possibly with en-suite facilities, communal areas, meals, help with personal care such as dressing, supervision of medication, companionship and someone on call at night. Care homes providing personal care can accommodate nursing care provision during short illnesses by using district nurses; they are unable to provide constant nursing care.

Care homes providing nursing care

These are often called nursing care homes. They also vary in size and facilities but all provide personal and nursing care 24 hours a day for people who are bedridden, very frail or have a medical condition or illness that means they need regular attention from a nurse. There is always a qualified nurse on duty.

Care homes for dementia

Older people with dementia may need a care home with an additional category of registration (DE). These were previously known as EMI homes and some people still use this term.

Respite care

A stay in a care home does not have to be permanent. You might want to stay in a care home for a short period to give your carer a break, or to build up your strength after an illness. This is called respite care. Some care homes allocate specific beds for respite care; others accept residents for respite if they have a vacancy. Each Social Services department will have a charging policy for respite care that is different from the national charging scheme for permanent care. If you think you, or your carer, would benefit from you having some respite care, ask your local Social Services department for a needs assessment.