It might be time to consider a care home if your relative is struggling to live alone even with the help of carers, friends and other relations.

There are likely to be three main reasons why you and your relative may be considering a care home. On this page you can find further information depending on your relative's needs.

1. Additional help
2. Personal care
3. Nursing care

A care home can help with personal care (such as supervision, washing, dressing or going to the toilet) or nursing care (medical care from a qualified nurse), or both.

A care home is not the only option

Other people might tell you that a care home is the only option for your relative, but don’t just assume they are right - solutions such as domiciliary care might be more suitable. Make sure that you research all options with your relative before making a decision.

If your relative needs additional help

With any of the following situations it might be time to start thinking about a care home for your relative.

  • A recent significant deterioration, caused by an illness or a fall, in their physical health or mobility.
  • A significant deterioration in their mental health, such as advancing dementia, which limits their ability to stay safely in their own home.
  • Loss of help that a partner, relative or neighbour previously provided.
  • Loneliness, isolation or depression.

If your relative needs help with personal care

A care home without nursing (also known as a residential care home) offers personal care, such as help getting up in the morning, going to bed at night, going to the toilet and eating meals. Residential homes might be a good option for people who need regular or frequent help with personal care, and who can no longer have their needs met at home. However if your relative:

  • needs help with personal care, a care home isn’t necessarily the only option; domiciliary care, home help or home care services can provide assistance at home. For more information, see Home care and support service.
  • wants to remain independent, but staying in their own home is no longer viable, extra care housing could also be an option (for more information, see What types of sheltered housing are there?).
  • needs help with personal care, another possible solution might be for them to move in with you (see Your relative moves in with you).

If your relative wants to consider any of these care options, the first step is to get a needs assessment from their local authority. Use our Care services directory to find local authority services for older people.

If your relative needs nursing care

If your relative is unable to leave his or her bed, or has any sort of medical condition or illness that requires frequent medical attention, their options are more limited. Long-term nursing care is not provided in sheltered housing or through care at home services, so it’s likely that, if your relative needs medical care, they will need to look for a care home that provides nursing care.

' We started off looking for care homes close to where we live, thinking it would be more convenient for us if Mum was local.' Pam's story

A move into a care home is a big step. For many people, a care home is only considered when other care options have been exhausted or are no longer suitable.

More information

Page last reviewed: 31 March 2015
Next review due: 30 September 2016