If your relative’s needs can no longer be met at home, there are benefits to moving to a care home. Although there may be downsides too, knowing what to expect can help you make realistic decisions.

The benefits of care homes

  • Safety: there is always someone around.
  • Staff on duty 24/7: in a residential care home, someone is on call at night. In a nursing home, care is provided 24 hours a day.
  • A room of their own room: your relative can usually personalise this with their own furniture, pictures and ornaments.
  • Meals: regular meals provided and nutritional needs met.
  • Companionship: opportunity to socialise with others of their own age and take part in organised activities or outings, where available.
  • Peace of mind for family that a vulnerable older relative is being taken care of and is not living alone.
  • Supervision of medication.
  • No worries about household bills or upkeep.
  • Better living conditions: the physical environment may be better – safe, warm and clean.

The drawbacks of care homes

  • Choice: there may be a limited choice of homes with a vacancy for your relative, depending on their circumstances.
  • Unfamiliar surroundings.
  • Loneliness and loss of contact with neighbours and old friends.
  • Emotional effect: families can feel guilty that they are not looking after their relative themselves, even though this may no longer be practical.
  • Your relative may feel rejected: it can help if you talk things through beforehand, possibly explaining that you or other family members are unable to give them the care that they need. Regular contact once they’ve moved in will also help.
  • Loss of independence, although a good home should encourage your relative to be as independent as they can be.
  • Lack of privacy: this might be difficult for your relative to adjust to.
  • Small living space: your relative won’t be able to take all of their furniture and personal possessions with them.
  • Variations in care: all homes have to achieve a minimum standard to ensure they can be registered, but quality of care may vary from home to home. Doing your research, and asking around for recommendations, should help you avoid the less suitable ones (see Choosing a care home).
  • Cost: care homes can be very costly, particularly if your relative has to fund their own care. For more information, see Financing a care home. If relying on local authority funding, your relative must be assessed as needing a care home. Sometimes you and the local authority might disagree on what is needed.

More information

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