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Different types of elderly care

Sheltered housing

Social care can be a very confusing term, covering a variety of options for a variety of needs. Elderly care sits under this rather large umbrella, so it can be tricky to know what kind of help is best suited to you if you're caring for an elderly parent or relative or researching care options for a loved one. To try to cut through the confusion, we've listed the main types of elderly care available to you, ranging from a bit of help at home to full-time nursing.


Domiciliary care (home care) | Replacement care and respite care | Sheltered housing and retirement villages | Care homes without nursing care | Care homes with nursing care | Continuing care | Hospice care


Domiciliary care (home care)

This is provided by a care attendant or carer to help someone with their daily life in their own home (not to be confused with an unpaid family member or friend who acts as a carer). Domiciliary care, or 'supported living services', covers a huge range of needs and can be a half an hour session a few times a week - providing a short break for an unpaid carer - to emergency care and even full-time live-in care. Types of home care include:


  • Personal care, such as washing or dressing
  • Housekeeping
  • Cooking or preparing meals
  • Nursing and health care
  • Companionship


Care in the home will allow your loved one to maintain independence and feel connected to those around them, while comfortable in the knowledge that they won't have to worry about day-to-day tasks. For more on domiciliary care, see our guide here.


Replacement care and respite care

If you provide care for an elderly parent or relative, your carer's assessment may identify that you need an intermittent break from caring. This type of care is designed to replace the care you would normally be giving, while offering you a short respite in order to look after your own health and well-being.

It can be funded by your local authority (and often include respite grants and a personal budget), who will develop a support plan with you and be able to give you information about local support available for the person in your care while you're taking a break, such as day centres, day or night services and short stays in residential homes. Benefits you're entitled to as a carer include:


  • Income Support
  • Carer's Allowance
  • Carer's Credit
  • Employment and Support Allowance


You may also be able to get help with the cost of going on holiday – either alone or with the person you care for – from a charity or benevolent fund. Saga Respite for Carers Trust provides a limited number of free holidays each year for carers over the age of 50 and those in their care.


Sheltered housing and retirement villages

A good option for someone who is relatively mobile and doesn't need round-the-clock care, but would like some reassurance of their personal safety. Sheltered housing is accommodation aimed at those who want to live in easier-to-manage homes, but also want to retain their independence. Sheltered housing usually includes 24-hour emergency help (through an alarm system) and communal areas for socialising. 

A retirement village is similar to sheltered housing in terms of how much care a resident receives, but there is a greater focus on communal facilities and activities to increase happiness and well-being among residents.


Care homes without nursing care

Care homes can provide personal care, which means that they supply more support than a retirement village or sheltered housing. The emphasis here is on assistance with practical tasks (getting up, washing, getting dressed, moving about, eating meals, taking medication) rather than offering specific medical expertise. 

Your local authority may be able to help with funding once you have undertaken a full financial assessment.


Care homes with nursing care

If you do need to organise live-in care for a loved one, a residential care home that is able to provide this (often referred to as a nursing home) may be beneficial for you. Many care homes have registered nurses on the premises at all times who are there to help with washing, dressing and meals. They also offer a high level of medical attention and may even specialise in certain types of disabilities or conditions such as dementia. 

To ease the strain, here are 10 tips for choosing the right care home for your parent or relative, but remember that it is extremely important that those entering care are aware of the situation and are happy to proceed.


Continuing care

This is fully-funded and provided by the NHS as a patient service, but it is not means-tested and only the severest of cases are eligible. It is normally delivered by nurses, either in a nursing home or at home. Since hospitals can no longer keep older people on wards long-term, patients who would once have stayed in hospital are now nursed at home or moved into care homes with nursing care to suit their needs.


Hospice care 

Hospices provide care that helps to improve the lives of those who have an incurable illness, from the point at which a person's illness is diagnosed as terminal to the end of their life. It can be intermittent or full-time care (in a care home or at home), placing high value on dignity, respect and the wishes of the person who is ill. It also provides for medical, emotional, social, practical, psychological, and spiritual needs in addition to the needs of family members and carers. Hospice care may also offer:


  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Complementary therapies, such as massage
  • Rehabilitation
  • Respite care
  • Financial information
  • Bereavement care
  • Spiritual and psychological help


Hospice care is free of charge, funded through a combination of NHS funding and public donations, but often follows a referral from a doctor or nurse.


For more information on different types of elderly care, visit the NHS, Carers UK, Age UK and Hospice UK websites.


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