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Residential care homes provide living accommodation, usually in an en suite room with meals in a dining area and help with personal care, such as washing, dressing and going to the toilet.

On this page, we tell you about:

1. What is residential care?
2. How much does residential care cost?
3. What might life be like in a residential care home?

What is residential care?

Residential care is care provided in a home for people who struggle to live independently and need additional support, but aren’t yet in need of nursing care.

By its very nature, life in a residential care home is usually more varied and active than that in a nursing home. Staff are on hand to care for the residents 24 hours a day, although in residential care homes this won’t include nursing care.

So if your relative currently needs personal care, but has an illness or disability that may require nursing care in the near future, consider a care home that offers both types of care. In this way you can ‘upgrade’ your relative’s care plan if their needs change without having to move him or her again.

Conversely, you might think that sheltered housing will provide much of the support that your relative needs and in a more informal setting.

How much does residential care cost?

Research by LaingBuisson for their Care of older people UK market report (28th edition, published May 2017) indicates that the average weekly cost of residential care in the UK in the financial year 2016-17 was £600; or just over £31,000 per year. For more detailed information about the cost of care across the UK, see our information about care home fees.

Residential care homes near me or my relative

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As well as the information guides on Which? Elderly Care, we also have a care services directory to enable you to search for residential care homes near you or your relative. You can also filter the directory to search for, say, residential care homes that specialise in dementia care.

What might life be like in a residential care home?

As well as looking after all your relative's day-to-day needs, many residential care homes have activity coordinators who arrange regular activities both in the home and out and about. These can include:

  • trips to leisure facilities
  • outings to places of interest
  • social events in the home
  • arts and craft groups, such as painting, flower arranging and knitting
  • games, such as dominoes or bridge
  • exercise, such as chair aerobics
  • opportunities to garden, if there's one at the home
  • music evenings.

Health and personal care should also be attended to, with support from external professionals such as:

  • the local GP
  • district nurse
  • physiotherapist
  • chiropodist
  • holistic therapists
  • hairdresser
  • vicar, priest or leader from other religious denominations.

If there is any particular hobby or interest that is important to your relative, check with the care home manager if these are supported when you are choosing a care home.

More information

  • Sheltered housing: read this guide to learn about the different kinds of sheltered housing that are available.
  • Nursing homes: what you can expect from care homes that look after people with nursing needs.
  • Find a care home: our care services directory searchable by postcode for all the care homes in your relative’s or your area.

Page last reviewed: September 2017