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Social care can be a very confusing term, covering a variety of options for a variety of needs. Elderly care sits under this umbrella, but 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, here are the main types of elderly care available, ranging from a bit of help at home to full-time nursing.
How to choose the right care | 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 | Financial aid
It's important that, wherever possible, your elderly parent or relative is aware that you are considering care options for them, is kept in the loop, and is consulted throughout the entire process. Receiving care can be a huge change for an individual and something that could initially be difficult to adjust to.
The first step is to contact your local council's adult social services department to arrange a care assessment for the individual in question - they are automatically entitled to an assessment no matter their income or savings. A care advisor will visit your loved one at home, go through care options with them and draw up a care plan. It is advisable that you attend the meeting to provide extra support, especially if you are a carer. This will also enable you to get a sense of what each type of care entails and what the next stages are.
See our care assessment guide for more information on what to expect and what you'll need.
This is provided by a care attendant or carer, not a family member or friend who acts as a carer, and involves helping someone with daily tasks in their own home. Domicilary care covers a huge range of needs and can be a short session a few times a week to emergency care and even full-time live-in care. Types of home care include:
Care in the home allows the individual 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 this type of care, see our domiciliary care guide. Whether your local authority will be arranging home care for you or you choose an independent home care agency, all domiciliary care providers in the UK are regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).
If you are a carer, you may need an intermittent break from caring. Respite care is designed to replace the care you would normally be giving and offer you a short respite so that you can look after your own health and wellbeing.
It can be funded by your local authority and often includes respite grants and a personal budget. Your local authority 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. Options include day centres, night services and short stays in residential homes. Benefits you're entitled to as a carer include:
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.
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 wellbeing among residents.
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 around, eating, 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.
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 the most suitable option. Many care homes have registered nurses on the premises at all times. 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's how to choose the right care home. Remember that it is extremely important that those entering care are aware of the situation (if possible) and are happy to proceed.
This is fully-funded and provided by the NHS, but 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.
In order to receive this type of healthcare, the patient must be assessed by healthcare professionals working on behalf of a clinical commissioning group (CCG). They will undertake a full-scale assessment once an initial checklist assessment is performed by a doctor, nurse or social worker. The assessment may be fast-tracked for those who are terminally ill.
Hospices help to improve the lives of those who have a terminal illness, from the early stages to the end of their life. It can be intermittent or full-time care (in a care home or at home) and places high value on dignity and respect. It also provides for the needs of family members and carers. In addition to medical care, hospices may also offer:
Hospice care is free of charge, funded through a combination of NHS funding and public donations, but often follows a referral from a medical professional. Find a hospice here.
The amount the individual has to pay for care is decided by their local council, but, in certain circumstances, there may be financial help available. See our advice on how to pay for elderly care. And if you're a carer, you may be entitled to Carer's Credit which can boost your State Pension.
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