Which? uses cookies to improve our sites and by continuing you agree to our cookies policy.

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.

Here we list the benefits and drawbacks of living in a care home. If you're beginning to think about choosing a care home for a loved one, our Care services finder includes detailed information for all residential and nursing care homes across the UK. You can also filter for specialist support, such as for people with dementia.

The benefits of living in a care home

  • 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, medical care from a qualified nurse is provided 24 hours a day.
  • A room of their own: your relative can usually personalise this with their own furniture, pictures and ornaments.
  • Meals: regular meals provided and nutritional needs met.
  • Companionship: opportunities 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. If this is a problem for your relative, see medication management systems.
  • No worries about household bills or upkeep.
  • Better living conditions: the physical environment may be better – safe, warm and clean.

The drawbacks of living in a care home

  • Cost: care homes can be very costly, particularly if your relative has to fund their own care. For more information, see Care home fees. If relying on local authority funding, your relative must be assessed as needing a care home.
  • Choice: there may be a limited choice of homes with a vacancy for your relative, depending on his or her 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).

More information

Page last reviewed: December 2016
Next review due: July 2019