Family & Pets

Care at home and nursing homes: elderly care in the United Kingdom

Elderly care in the United Kingdom has historically taken place in nursing homes, but new research suggests that elderly UK residents are increasingly seeking out live-in care.

Elder care UK

By Mark Lazell

Updated 12-1-2024

The provision of elderly care at home in the United Kingdom is evolving. While residential homes, nursing homes, and hospices remain common options, more people are discovering live-in care as an attractive and affordable alternative, says a leading provider of live-in elderly care in the UK.

The research shows that 97% of people would choose to stay in their own homes to be cared for if they could. But there’s still a perception that, if you need round-the-clock care, you need to be in a care home. That’s not the case.

Inside tips on choosing elderly care in the UK

Like writing a will or planning your funeral, talking about old age care isn’t on anyone’s bucket list. Indeed, research suggests only 27% of the UK population has planned how they would fund care.

Most people consider their care options in a crisis, and there isn’t a worse time to do that. You’re dealing with high stress levels, and you can’t research and understand the options properly.

Care at home: care worker sitting with two of her live-in care patients

The earlier you have the conversation with your family or people around you, the better. Communicate your intentions clearly. Think about how you’re going to finance your care. And consider what would happen if something were to incapacitate you, like a stroke. It is important you have powers of attorney in place to enable your family to make decisions on your behalf; you don’t need to invoke them until you are ready.

Choosing the care you need is very personal. It might depend on your medical needs, financial circumstances, or the type of environment in which you’d like to live. You may prefer the community feel of a residential home; in that case, inspect the facilities, get opinions from residents, and meet the staff to understand how they operate.

Standards of elderly care in the UK

Reassuringly, elderly care in the UK is highly regulated, and care providers (whether residential, nursing homes, or care at home) are rigorously inspected to ensure clients are comfortable, safe, and healthy. In the case of live-in care, providers may be members of the United Kingdom Care Association (if they are members of the Live-In Care Hub, it is a requirement they are UKHCA members) and, if the provider manages carers and oversees service provision, they must be regulated by the Care Quality Commission.

Regulation is important because it offers peace of mind to the individual and family. The Care Quality Commission rigorously inspects elderly care providers.

In the case of unregulated live-in care, an introductory agency matches you with a carer; you are essentially their employer. Although cheaper than regulated care, you are subject to employment rules. It is important to ascertain what is important to you before choosing.

Why is live-in care becoming popular?

Better at Home, a detailed 2019 study by the Live-In Care Hub (a non-profit group of live-in care providers championing 24/7 home care in the UK), states that “staying at home is the preferred option for the vast majority of people, because it promotes independence, avoids or reduces hospital admissions (according to the report, there are roughly one-third fewer falls for those with care at home compared to residential/nursing homes), and keeps people in the place they know and love best, and among their friends.”

Care at home provider helping a senior woman get dressed in her bedroom

Live-in care workers get to know you and understand you, providing not only practical help and services but also companionship and a meaningful relationship.

Cost implications of elderly care in the UK

The cost of elderly care in the UK will be a prime consideration for most people.

The Live-In Care Hub study presented the findings of a survey on the price and quality of 1,022 residential care and nursing homes in the UK based on three different scenarios of the most common reasons people need full time care. It found that the average price for live-in care is £1,080 per week. It also found that one-third of nursing homes across the country charge £1,000 or more per week.

About 70% of residential care costs will be for accommodation, with the balance being food and care itself.

It is important to understand up-front what you get for your money. Even in top-end care homes, you might only get three hours of touch time a day, versus 10 with live-in care at home. If you need more individual care time in a home, you’ll need to pay for it. Costs can escalate quickly.

With live-in, the front-line care fee is broadly the same, but you will have to factor in the cost of running your house and bills.

Funding your twilight years

The criteria for obtaining UK state care funding is, with some exceptions, means tested; at least part of your elderly care will probably have to be privately-funded.

If your capital and savings are below £14,250, you will have your care paid for. If you have between £14,250 and £23,250, you will have to fund all of your social care.

Anyone deemed as needing support at home is eligible for an attendance allowance, which amounts to between £57.30 and £85.60 per week. Also, anyone with a dementia diagnosis is exempt from council tax.

Care at home provider serving dinner to a senior man in an armchair

Continuing Healthcare is another NHS-funded scheme for people with significant ongoing care needs and using your home as an asset to fund care is also a good option.

Equity release is a great way to fund care and protect your kids’ inheritance – accessing funding to pay for a care fees annuity, for example. If you have a care fees annuity, that will pay a baseline amount towards your care until you pass.

In any case, it is recommended to consult a qualified financial advisor at the Society of Later Life Advisers (SOLLA).

Care Funding Guidance is also a free service helping people navigate the complex funding framework around elderly care in the UK.

Providers of care at home in the UK

The Care Quality Commission rigorously inspects all registered live-in care providers in the UK. Expatica provides details of job opportunities for carers via their directory.