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Updated: 15 Dec 2021

How to choose the right care in later life

Trying to decide what to do about care in later life can feel overwhelming, but our practical, independent information can help you make the best choices at a difficult time.
Which?Editorial team

What are the main care options?

Many of us worry about the challenges of getting older, whether that’s health, housing or money concerns. Or you might be anxious about a loved one – wondering which care options could be necessary for the future and how you’re going to finance them.

If you’re starting to think about care and support in later life, it’s good to be aware of the available options. There’s no one size that fits all. What’s right for you will depend on lots of different factors, such as your age, health, where you live and your financial situation. 

When planning your next steps, start by considering the most popular options, such as adaptations and technology to help you stay independent, new living arrangements, care at home and residential care.

Care options for later life

Staying independent 

For many of us, the first step is to think about how to maintain your independence for as long as possible.

There are plenty of improvements you can make to your home to ensure it’s safe and suitable for your needs as you get older. Changes to your lifestyle or getting hold of the right gadgets or aids can also help keep you active and independent.

You might like to learn about:

New living arrangements

Running a household can be very demanding. But if you’re struggling to keep on top of things, moving into a residential care home isn’t the only option. 

Think about:

Home care

Home care or domiciliary care might be a good idea if you’re finding it difficult to carry out personal care routines, such as washing or dressing. And it may be an appropriate option if your home still largely meets your needs.


Residential care

If you or a family member is struggling to live independently and need additional support, you may eventually want to look into full-time residential care.

In a care home, you’ll get a private bedroom (and usually an en suite bathroom) with meals in a communal dining area. Personal care, such as help with washing, dressing and going to the toilet, is provided.

For those who have more complex needs, nursing homes provide round-the-clock, registered nursing care.

What are your needs?

If you or someone you know requires help with daily tasks, contact the council to arrange a free needs assessment.

A social worker or occupational therapist will visit your home and ask questions about how you’re coping with everyday tasks, such as dressing, washing and cooking.

They will be able to advise you on any adaptations that could make living in your home easier. But they will also be able to tell you whether home or residential care may be necessary. 

How will you pay for care?

Unlike health care provided by the NHS, social care is rarely free. Most of us will pay for some or all of the care we need in later life.

After a needs assessment from your local authority, you will have a financial means test. This will look at your income, savings and assets to work out how much you will need to contribute to the cost of your care.

Download our free guide to paying for care in later life for a jargon-free summary of how care is paid for across the UK, how much care typically costs and how to apply for financial support.

There is a file available for download. (pdf1.84 MB). This file is available for download at .

Get all the benefits you’re entitled to

If you’re concerned about finances, you need to know that there are various benefits available in later life, from state benefits to help with energy bills and travel perks. Make sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to by reading our guide to benefits and allowances for older people

If you’re unsure about which benefits you might be eligible for, try the Turn2us benefits calculator.

What help is available for carers?

Caring for a family member or friend can be incredibly rewarding, but you may also find it overwhelming and lonely at times. You may well also be worrying about your financial situation.

We can help you find the information and support you need, including details of the benefits you might be entitled to, such as Carer’s Allowance.