What type of care home? : A guide to Elderly Care

Deciding to go into a home is a big decision but the next thing to think about is what type of care home. We tend to assume that all homes are the same and lump them under the term ‘nursing home’. However, we are all different with varying needs which means finding a home to cater to those.

The thing to remember with a care home is that there is no ‘one size fits all’type of home.

The good news is that there are different types of homes which offer different types of care and these are:

  • Residential care homes
  • Nursing homes
  • Specialist care homes
  • Dual registered care homes

Residential care homes

A residential home is one which people (or residents) live their on a short term or long term basis. They provide meals and accommodation and staff are available for 24 hours a day.

They also provide help with personal care such as dressing or bathing. They are useful for a period of recuperation following a short term illness or an operation.

Extensive or long term nursing care is carried out in a nursing home.

Nursing homes

These provide the same facilities as a residential home but are geared towards people who require long term or complex nursing care. Basically, you get the benefits of a residential home plus the added bonus of 24 hour nursing care.

These do cost more due to the qualified nursing care. But you will find that the NHS contributes to nursing home fees see our paying for elderly care section).

Specialist care homes

These are homes which cater for specific illnesses or conditions, for example Parkinson’s disease or Huntingdon’s disease. They also care for young adults who are physically disabled and people with a terminal illness.

They are adapted to deal with these specific needs and have staff who are specially trained to deal with these. If you are not sure which one would suit you then consider this:

Are you currently receiving treatment from a qualified nurse or carer? And is this on a regular and/or 24 hour basis?

If so then you will probably require a nursing home. Check with your qualified nurse or hospital staff to confirm this.

Please note that you have the right to choose the care home you want but it must suit your needs according to your ‘needs assessment’. If your care plan states that you need a nursing home then you may not be able to move into one which doesn’t provide this.

Dual registered care homes

These are homes which offer both nursing and residential care. They are ideally suited to couples who require different forms of care or if you think that your needs will change in the future.

They will contain a set number of residential beds and nursing beds and their availability will be subject to need.

There are other types of homes which cater to people of a particular religion or ex-service personnel.

Not only are there different types of homes; there are different types of care as well. These include:

  • Dementia care (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Physically disabled care (for ‘younger’ people)
  • Palliative/terminal illness care
  • Parkinson’s disease and Huntingdon’s disease care
  • Respite care
  • Convalescence/recuperation care

Everyone is different when it comes to care. It is a case of finding a home which will provide the type of care which suits your needs and requirements. Dementia care The risk of developing dementia increases with age: one in five people will have some form of dementia by the age of 80 which makes it one of the most common diseases of old age. Dementia is not an actual condition: it is an umbrella term for a series of symptoms which occur as a result of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Korsakoff's syndrome, vascular dementia and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

These symptoms include:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Problems with speech

Basically, your brain’s normal functions become increasingly damaged over a period of time which affects your ability to understand, reason and communicate. And because this is a progressive disease it means that the sufferer will require specialist care in the later stages. There are nursing homes which have nurses that are specially trained to care for dementia patients. These homes are adapted to their needs so that the resident is able to retain their independence in a safe environment. Someone with a form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease will require 24 hour nursing care and these homes can provide that. The aim is ensure that residents are with dignity and compassion, and with an awareness of their declining abilities. They will offer a range of activities which are designed for each resident’s capabilities and as a form of communication. These homes will also look at helping its residents to remember even the smallest things and to carry out some simple tasks.

Physically disabled care (for ‘younger’people)

These types of homes provide care to people who are physically disabled and are unable to manage at home. They offer residential or nursing care which is aimed at people aged from 18 to 65. This may vary between homes so check with an individual home to see what their minimum/upper age limit is.

Palliative/terminal illness care

‘Palliative’ is a term used to describe pain control and management of the symptoms of a disease. This usually applies to people with a chronic or terminal illness, for example cancer.

This is a highly specialised form of care which is focussed on an improved quality of life. If someone is suffering from a terminal illness and has a set period of time to live, then this care will ensure that they maximise that time left.

Parkinson’s disease and Huntingdon’s disease care

These are two progressive diseases which require a specialist form of care.

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the brain which destroys those brain cells which are responsible for movement. These brain cells produce a chemical called dopamine which aids with movement and co-ordination.

Sufferers of Parkinson’s display trembling or shaky movements; problems with speech and a tendency to shuffle instead of walking normally. Huntingdon’s disease is a genetic disease which affects the body’s nervous system. A defective gene causes damage to cells within the brain which are responsible for movement, personality, motivation and reasoning.

These brain cells become damaged over time which results in clumsiness, involuntary movements, and lack of concentration, depression and aggressive behaviour. There are specialist care homes with highly qualified staff that are experienced and trained to deal with these diseases.

Respite care

This type of care is aimed at both the patient and the carer.

If you care for a parent or relative then this can be physically and mentally tiring. It requires a great of hard work and commitment on the part of the carer to cater for that person’s needs.

But it is easy to forget about your needs. Your health and well being are important and one way of ensuring that you remain in good health is to have a break.

It is easy to feel guilty about this but everyone needs a break in their lives and you will find that this benefits both you and the person you are looking after.

Short term break or ‘respite care’ as it is known is designed for just that: it enables you to ‘recharge your batteries’ whilst your parent or relative is looked after on a 24 hour basis. If you are the patient in that you are recovering from an operation or have permanent care then a change can do you good. It can help with the transition from hospital to back home or just give you a change from your normal routine. We all need a change in our daily routines and a short stay in pleasant surroundings, with the company of others and with a range of activities can be highly beneficial.

Another aspect of this is that you are able to build a relationship with the respite care home which may prove to be useful later on in life. If you require permanent care at a later stage in life then this will be a home which you are already familiar with and so would prefer to move into.

Convalescence/recuperation care

These can a bridge between discharge from hospital following an illness or surgery and arriving back at home.

They can provide rest and recuperation following your hospital stay which gives you time to get back on your feet.

Arriving back at home after spending time in hospital can be stressful in that you are likely to be tired, weak and less capable of doing the normal, day to day tasks such as cooking or your laundry.

So, it is useful to have someone do this for you whilst you fully recover.

There are other options to a care home which include assisted living, retirement housing, and sheltered accommodation or help at home.

These are all discussed individually in our other options to a care home section.

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