When might a nursing home be the right choice? And how do you go about finding the right one?

As you age, you may start to think about when you may no longer be able to cope with living in your own home without additional support. Alternatively, you may already get help from friends and family, but are perhaps starting to think your needs would be better met in a residential setting.

If you have complex, ongoing health needs, you may have heard about residential care homes that offer nursing care; also known as nursing homes.

Care home or nursing home?

Nursing care is specialist support for certain health and care needs. A care home with nursing, or nursing home, provides the same care and support as a care home offering personal care, but with 24-hour nursing staff on hand to support you as necessary. This means as well as care staff who help with moving and washing, nursing staff can administer medicines and provide medical care in the care home at any time of day or night.

If you need someone to look after you 24 hours a day, but don’t need nursing care specifically, a care home offering personal care may be the best option.

Life in a nursing home

One fundamental purpose of a nursing home is to ensure its residents feel their overall sense of wellbeing is being maintained in a positive environment. So what is life like? Keeping you living as independently as possible is key. Staff will be on hand to support your individual lifestyle and preferences. Taking part in activities and enjoying much-loved pastimes or hobbies where possible is an important factor. Activities on offer should stimulate you emotionally, physically and mentally. In a good home, activities should also encompass all aspects of daily life. Activities can range from choosing what to wear, to helping with tasks around the home or garden, to listening to the radio or joining in with an art or exercise class. Some homes also provide trips out and about, or visiting entertainment.

Assessments and funding

If you think a nursing home is the best option for you, you need to start the process with a social needs assessment. In this, you will have a visit with a social worker or care manager to work out what care you will need. This might be in your own home, or in hospital if you’ve been ill, or in care home depending on your circumstances. You will be fully involved in planning your care needs.

This ‘planning’ process will result from a needs and financial assessment conducted by your local authority. You have the legal right to approach your local authority for these assessments, but it’s up to them to decide whether you are eligible for state support, and if so, how much you will have to contribute towards its cost. Your local authority will give you information on eligibility and the national criteria it uses at the time of your assessment.

If a needs assessment identifies a nursing home as the best solution for you, a social worker will give you information to help you find one which meets your care requirements. The cost of your nursing care fees may be paid by the NHS to the home directly. This is called NHS Funded Nursing Care (FNC) or Registered Nursing Care Contribution (RNCC). The current amount is £183.92 per week. However, from 1st April 2021, the rate will increase to £187.60. This figure is subject to change each year, so it’s best to contact your local authority for the latest information. You can also find more information on our page Paying for Care.

Finding the nursing home for you

Both care and nursing homes in the UK are inspected and regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) . The CQC inspects care services to make sure they are safe, caring, effective, responsive and well-led. There are four ratings: outstanding, good, requires improvement, and inadequate. View the latest CQC ratings and reports for each nursing home, when conducting your search.

You may prefer to get information from word of mouth. Recommendations from friends and family can be a good place to start. You can also check the Care Choices website to see if there is a regional care services directory published in your area. The directories feature listings of all CQC-registered care providers in the area, including nursing homes. Read the directories online or organise for a free copy to be delivered straight to your door at home.