Choosing the Right Care Home and Meeting the Costs

Our friends at Chosen with Care share the questions and answers that most frequently get asked of their elderly care advice line.

For many people, looking for elderly care is not a task they will have undertaken before, or will need to get involved in, more than once or twice in their lives. So, it's not surprising that many of the calls to our advice line are from people absolutely in the dark about how to even start looking for elderly care - now more than ever. Here are our most frequently asked questions and answers. 

"How do I find the best care home near me?" 

A common and seemingly simple question but difficult to answer as you would probably first have to consider what sort of care you need. Knowing that, you might even want to ask, "What are the alternatives to a care home?"

So, what seemed like a simple question, has become a bit 'chicken and egg.' So, it makes sense to take a step back and start with this question.

"How do I choose a care home?"

We believe there are generally four key things you need to consider when choosing a care home.

The first is location

A lot of people get this wrong. We get so many calls from sons and daughters who assume that the best home for their elderly mum or dad will be near the place where they already live. This sometimes means they're travelling hundreds of miles a week for a brief visit. 

The 'me' therefore, in "Where is the best care home near me?" needs to be the person who is most likely to visit.

The second thing you need to do when choosing a care home is to understand really clearly what type of care home you're looking for.

Many people come to us not knowing that there is a difference between a residential home and a nursing home. The difference is very simple: 

  • a nursing home has nurses on site. So, if you need nursing care, and you need nurses to look after you or your elderly relative, it is a nursing home you're looking for.
  • a residential care home can offer a lot of support medically, but they won't be registered by the Care Quality Commission to provide nursing care.

Both types of homes might offer help for people living with dementia. However, this will depend on the level and type of dementia the person going into the home has now and might develop in the future. For more information take a look at our dementia advice.

A move from one care home to another is never easy, so we would always advise trying to 'future-proof' any care home that you're looking for.

Thirdly. How much is the care home going to cost? You need to make sure it's within your price range now - and going forwards. If you run out of money after a few months or even years and the care home asks you to leave, then you've chosen the wrong care home.

Fourth. Does the home have availability now? How quickly do you need that place in the care home? In our experience, most of our calls come from people in a crisis situation, and they need somewhere for their elderly relative to go immediately. 

Invariably this means their choices are limited, and so the 'best care home near me' becomes 'the best care home, that has a vacancy right now, near me.'

If you can forward plan, even if it's just by 2 or 3 weeks, you will have a wider choice. The bottom line though, is you need to understand what you're looking for and make sure you do your research.

"What is the average cost of a nursing home?" reports that the average weekly cost of living in a residential care home is £760, while the average nursing home cost is £960 per week across the UK. The monthly average cost of residential care is £3290 and receiving nursing care in a care home costs on average £4160.

And then the question we get asked a lot... 

"How can I avoid selling my house to pay for care?"

If you have assets above £23,250, including your house, and if you're living alone, then you will need to pay for your own care. If you try to avoid selling your house to raise the money to pay for your later life care, this is called 'deprivation of assets' and you cannot do it.

"Does a person living with dementia have to pay for their elderly care?"

Yes, they do.

This is because dementia has not been classified as an illness that the NHS will cover, in the same way as, for example, cancer has.

So again, it comes down to what assets the person living with dementia has. In England, if they have assets, including their house, if they live alone, above £23,250, they will be expected to pay for their elderly dementia care.

If they have less than that, the local authority will support them on a pro rata basis.

"What is a top up fee?"

If your care is funded by the local authority, the amount they will pay might not be enough to cover the fees in many care homes.

However, a third party, usually but not necessarily, a relative, can 'top up' the amount that the local authority is prepared to pay, which might give the person who needs the elderly care home, a wider choice over which care home they go into. 

"What are the alternatives to a care home?"

The two main alternatives are home care and live-in care

  • Home care is a carer coming into your home for maybe 30 minutes, or an hour, or two hours. They can come in once a day, once a week, four times a day. They're there to support you or your elderly relative, in whatever level of support is needed.
  • Live-in-care is when somebody comes and lives with the person who needs care in their own home. They will stay there day and night.

Live-in care especially, seems to be gaining in popularity during the current pandemic, as the evidence seems to point to a very low infection rate associated with the service. 

Live-in care is generally at the upper end of the scale in terms of price. Actual costs charged tend to be on a par with care homes. The difference though, is that with care homes, costs such as food, council tax and utilities are all included in the price. With live-in care these costs still apply. 

"Is home care less expensive than a nursing home?"

This is a tricky question to answer. Home care is charged by the hour, whereas a nursing home will charge by the week.

If you, or your elderly parent or relative, have nursing needs, and you need a nurse 24/7 to support you at home, then it will generally be more expensive.

If you're in a care home that offers nursing care, then the overall cost, because you will be receiving 24/7 care, is likely to be cheaper. But it really depends on how many hours you need your nursing care for, as to which one is the cheaper option.


For more help finding elderly care, visit, email their advice line or ring their team of experts on 01892 300 530