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What’s The Difference Between A Residential Care Home And A Nursing Home?

May 26th, 2022

If you’re looking for support with care for yourself or a loved one, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to residential care homes, nursing care, nursing homes, and more. Not everyone going into residential care needs a nursing home, and some may be eligible to receive nursing care in their own home. 

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that there were a total of 12,471 residential care homes in the UK as of March 2021, along with 5,127 nursing homes. In total, some 490,326 were living in care homes at this time, demonstrating the scale of people benefiting from additional support and care. Read on to understand the differences between residential care homes and nursing homes, and what exactly nursing care involves. 

6 Signs A Care Home Should Be The Next Step

older woman washing vegetables for cooking

Different people require care home services for different reasons; everyone will need extra support at a different time as they get older, while some may be able to continue living independently well into old age. If you’re worried about a loved one or about your own ability to cope, here are some signs to look out for:

1. Noticeable Weight Loss

Sudden weight loss may be the sign of an illness, but it may also indicate that someone isn’t eating enough. This could be because they’re not feeling well, or it could be due to them losing the ability to shop for themselves or prepare food safely. 

Sometimes, noticeable weight loss can even be a sign of the onset of dementia. If you think that an elderly relative is losing weight, always speak to your GP, who will be able to offer advice and support. 

2. Increased Confusion

If you notice that an older person seems forgetful or is regularly confused, this may be a sign that they should no longer be living on their own and might benefit from support with personal care tasks. Get in touch with your local authority who’ll be able to carry out a care needs assessment to show you your options.

3. Greater Risk Of Accidents


Often, the sign that an elderly person can no longer live independently is that they’ve suffered a fall in their home. In fact, data from the UK government shows that falls are the most common reason why elderly people attend emergency departments. A fall can sometimes lead to a stay in hospital, and it may highlight other issues that they may have been struggling with in silence.

Of course, falls aren’t the only accidents that can occur; any incidents such as a hob being left on, taps being left running, or meals forgotten about in the oven should also act as a red flag that residential care or at least some extra support may be required.

4. Loneliness

As the UK’s ageing population continues to grow, figures from Age UK’s All the Lonely People report predict that two million over-50s will be lonely by 2026, with this figure now possibly coming in even higher as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Loneliness can significantly affect a person’s wellbeing and may even lead to feelings of depression.

If you or a loved one are not coping living alone, there is help available from charities such as the Samaritans. However, you may also want to think about whether living alone is working for you, or if you may benefit from living with other people in a care home setting, where there’ll be constant company from other residents and staff, but you’ll still have your own space too.

5. Struggles With Daily Tasks

Many people also move into residential care when they find themselves struggling with daily tasks, such as dressing, washing, or keeping their homes clean and hygienic. Moving into a care home means you can access support with all of these tasks, allowing you to maintain your dignity and live in comfort as you get older.

6. Changing Health Needs


Another reason that additional care may be needed is due to changing health needs, such as needing to administer medication, receive ongoing treatment, or being unable to change your own dressings. Mobility issues may also signal a need for extra care, so it’s important to discuss your options with your GP or local authority to see what support is available. 

When Is Nursing Care The Right Option?

Nursing care is designed to provide support with personal care, such as bathing, shaving, and dressing, and with administering medication. Nursing care can be temporary, for example while you’re recuperating from a hip replacement, after a stay in hospital following a fall, or if your partner can’t manage to nurse you following an illness. Some people require nursing care 24/7, including some elderly people, and some people living with learning or physical disabilities.

Nursing homes are set up to provide nursing care; they are typically full-time residential facilities with access to qualified nurses onsite around the clock. Some people receive nursing care in their own homes, sometimes with live-in carers, but this isn’t an option for everyone, as it can require extensive home modifications. 

You may be eligible for NHS-funded nursing care, which your local clinical commissioning group (CCG) can assess, and will help to ease the cost associated with nursing care. Get in touch with your GP or local authority to find out more. 

New Care Nursing Homes

carer holding hands with patient

At New Care homes, we offer patient-centred, evidence-based nursing care plans for residents who require them. All of our residents accessing nursing care have access to our comfortable, state-of-the-art facilities, which include private bedrooms with en-suite wetrooms that can be personalised so they feel like home.

You’ll have access to our dedicated nursing care team, as well as trained chefs who cater to a variety of dietary needs every day, hospitality assistants, housekeepers, and wellbeing assistants. We also provide dementia care at our care homes, if your care needs change as you get older.

What Does A Residential Care Home Offer?

‘Care home’ is often used as a catch-all term for residential care homes, but sometimes it refers to nursing homes too. But when we take nursing care out of the equation, what exactly does residential care involve?

Residential care allows people to live independently away from home, but it also means they have access to support from care home staff with tasks such as going to the toilet, dressing, bathing, or managing medication if they need it. 

A person may benefit from residential care if they are struggling to continue living alone, perhaps due to cognitive decline or mobility issues, or if they’re no longer able to live independently safely. The decision of whether they need to move into a care home may be decided after a care needs assessment carried out by your local authority.

Residential Care At New Care Homes

elderly man using walking frame

All of our New Care residential care homes are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for people who require respite, dementia, or nursing care, or who simply need a little extra support to maintain their independence. Our care homes are stylishly decorated, with subtle zoning and signposting for those living with dementia.

We offer fine dining facilities run by trained chefs at all of our sites, there are well-kept gardens (accessible from most ground floor bedrooms), and we have an onsite nail bar and hair salon to keep you feeling your best. Our care home staff are also trained to deliver the Oomph! programme, which is designed to support residents’ physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing to support all residents in staying happy and stimulated. 

You’ll find everything you need in one place, allowing you to settle into a brand new home where you can live safely and comfortably for as long as you need. 

What Are The Benefits Of Accessing Care Services?

Although accessing nursing care services for the first time or moving into a residential care home may seem daunting, there can be so many benefits for both the person accessing the care and their loved ones. These include:

  • Reduced stress and responsibility for loved ones who had previously been carrying out caring duties. Moving into residential care means that when you do spend time together in the future, the carer-patient relationship will have shifted, and there’ll be more time to focus on making memories together
  • More companionship for elderly people – if loneliness has previously been a problem, moving into a care home is an opportunity to meet lots of new people from fellow residents to care staff, allowing for a new lease of life, and reducing those feelings of loneliness
  • Good nutrition – if you’ve been worried about whether your loved one is eating properly, you can benefit from greater peace of mind knowing that their meals are being prepared for them, and that they’re eating a balanced diet to support them to stay healthy
  • Greater peace of mind – it can be a big weight off the shoulders of relatives, friends, and neighbours to know that their loved one is being looked after by trained professionals. It may feel strange at first, but knowing that they’re in the hands of care home staff is the next best thing to them being looked after by you

The Main Differences Between Residential And Nursing Care

carer holding hands with patient

Although residential care and nursing care facilities may sometimes be part of the same building, the main difference between the two is that nursing care involves trained nursing professionals, is more specialist, and caters to a person’s specific medical needs. There may also be a different cost for the different types of care homes. 

Undergoing a care needs assessment will help you to understand which type of care home will benefit you the most, and you can find more advice on when to consider moving into a care home in this guide

Discover the differences between our residential care and nursing home facilities for yourself on a visit to a New Care home. Contact us today to arrange a visit to have a look around, or to ask us any questions.