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Residential care and care homes

What is residential care?

Residential care is a term used to describe the general care and support provided in a standard elderly care home. It can often be referred to as personal care, or even assisted living and usually involves help with basic needs such as washing, dressing and mobility assistance.

Often, residential care homes are simply referred to as care homes, whereas nursing homes are referred to by the Care Quality Commission as care homes with nursing.

A care home is a residential setting where a number of older people live, usually in single rooms, and have access to on-site care services 24 hours a day. A home registered simply as a care home will generally provide personal care and support such as help with washing, dressing and giving medication. Further assistance can be given, such as helping to eat meals and promoting mobility to keep agile. Some care homes are registered to meet a specific care need such as dementia or terminal illness and end of life care.

Care homes may be an option when you can no longer live independently in your own supported, extra care, or retirement housing. For people with a disability or mental health needs, care homes form part of a range of service options available in the market. The Care Quality Commission website allows you to search by the type of care home you need, by name, or location.

Support choosing the right care home

It's important to find a care home that's right for you or right for the person who's going to live there. If you or the person you're caring for are over 50, you might like to talk to a community navigator about your housing options before making a final decision. They can help guide you through the process. Read more about choosing a long term residential placement for an older person.

Finding the right care home

We suggest you always visit the care homes you're considering before making a final choice.

In conjunction with Kent Integrated Care Alliance (KICA) we have created a list of important things to consider when choosing a care home. A good care home in Kent has a number of equally important features such as they:

  • keep dignity in all aspects of care
  • have a caring, compassionate and competent workforce
  • hold the resident central to decisions
  • have a warm, clean and odour free environment
  • meet the food and drink needs of the individual
  • keep people safe from harm
  • offer a wide variety of activities that are tailored to the individual
  • are sensitively designed to cater for people's needs, this could be for dementia or accessibility for larger wheelchairs
  • are well run with a dedicated and visible manager
  • have excellent record keeping detailing people's health and wellbeing
  • know and understand the people in their care and deliver personalised care.

What happens if you have health needs?

Residential care partly funded by the NHS

If your assessment shows that you need nursing home care the NHS will pay for the cost of the care needed from a registered nurse.  Your nursing home is entitled to receive a payment from the NHS for the costs of your registered nursing care element.

Residential care fully funded by the NHS

If your main need is a health need the NHS will provide for all of your needs.  This will include accommodation, if this is part of your needs.  If this is the case, you should be eligible for free care outside of hospital that is arranged and funded by the NHS.  This is called NHS Continuing Healthcare. Sometimes, the NHS will pay for this care in settings other than a care home.  Please ask your social care contact to explain this more fully.

Useful Contacts & Information

AgeUK Logo
You can take along Age UK's checklist of important things to ask the staff. You can often ask for a trial stay to see what you think.

The NHS also offer good advice about choosing the right care home. You will also need to think about how you will fund your stay in residential care.

Care Quality Commision Logo
If you want to understand the standard of care and quality of life you or your loved one will receive at a particular home, you can ask to see the care home's inspection report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC). All care homes must be registered with the CQC. They regularly inspect homes to make sure they are meeting national standards.

Health Watch Logo
You may also be interested in Healthwatch Kent, an independent organisation which champions the views of patients and social care users across Kent.

Last updated: 24/02/2023