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When the time to look for a place for our elders comes, we are presented with a whole new set of questions and doubts.

Should they have in-home care or move to a care home? Is it enough with day care? What care do they need? Do they need special care? What’s the difference between a care home and a nursing home?…

Truth is, it can be exhausting to find trustworthy information that will help us make the best decision. That’s why, we’ve put together this brief article explaining, plain and simple, what is the difference between a care home and a nursing home.

Different types of care for elderly people

Firstly, it’s important to know that there are various types of care to provide to our elders, depending on their personal situation and health condition:

For those able to look after themselves

For instance, for those that are able to live by themselves but would rather spend their days in company, there are independent communities where they share common spaces with other people of their same age group.

If they want or need some assistance, but are mainly able to take care of themselves, another option can be the assisted living, where they still have their own privacy while having on-site medical facilities.

For those needing temporary care

Otherwise, if the elder person wants to stay at their place but still need someone to take care of them, maybe what you are looking for is in-home care. This way, a professional assists the person during the day by, for example, providing them with their medication or treatment.

Another option is day care, for which the elder person goes during the day (or for some hours) to a care home, where they are assisted and taken care of by professionals. However, as this is just temporary, they spend the nights at their own place. This option is thought to assist the person while the main carer is at work, or to provide with a specific care needed after an operation or treatment.

For those needing continuous care

Care homes and nursing homes are generally the option chosen for those elders that can’t take care of themselves anymore. Residents in these facilities are often people with physical and/or mental deterioration due to their advanced age, or affected by mental illnesses that require supervision and help. Either way, this type of homes usually cover all their residents’ medical needs, as well as activities to incentivate socialization among them (when possible).

Lastly, there is also the palliative care, dedicated to those patients of a terminal or untreatable condition. Sometimes this type of care is included in care homes and nursing homes, but there are also specialized centres known as hospices.

Residential care at St Augustine's care home
Sisters Hospitallers - St Augustine's Care Home (Addlestone, England)

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

Once you have decided (or been advised) that what your elder needs is continuous care, it’s time to dive into the difference between a care home and a nursing home – which will be quite easy to differentiate once you read this article.

The first key difference between these two types of homes for elderly people is the type of care that they provide to their residents. More specifically, the difference is the staff working for them.

In this regard, care homes generally employ care professionals trained to answer their residents’ needs caused by the physical and mental deterioration that often comes with ageing. On the other hand, as its name entails, people working at nursing homes are mainly nurses. In this case, they are responsible for administering residents’ intravenous medication or more specialized treatment than a care home can provide.

Another relevant difference that you might want to consider is the price.

As residents at nursing homes require more attention and specific care than those at a care home, the price is usually higher. For instance, a nursing home is on average £100/per week more expensive than a care home.

Something to also consider when choosing between a care home and a nursing home is that, despite the difference explained above, a care home might be able to provide specialized care for mental health patients. Therefore, it might still be interesting for you to ask at a care home about your elder’s specific conditions once you have shortlisted your options.

Read more about our Care Homes in England