A Guide to Differences Between Care Homes and Nursing Homes

Differences between care homes and a nursing homes

Choosing the right care home for someone or yourself can be daunting. You want to ensure you find the right environment where you, or a loved one, will be comfortable and cared for.

In short, a care home is a safe environment for elderly residents, a place where they can continue living a comfortable life with 24/7 support if needed. And, with over 18% of the UK’s population over 65, our ageing population is fuelling an increase in demand for more care facilities.

But with so many different types of care homes, what are the differences between a care home and a nursing home? One key characteristic is that a nursing home has a staff nurse 24/7 to support residents with complex needs. On the other hand, a care home has a district nurse who visits the home daily to administer medicine and check on the residents.

What is a care home?

The purpose of a care home is to assist with daily living tasks for those who need it. These facilities offer bathing, dressing, walking and other personal care tasks. 

A care home can be either a residential care home or a care home with nursing. The main difference, as mentioned, is that a nursing home is registered with the CQC (Care Quality Commission) as a nursing home and must have nursing staff. The residents often have complex medical needs that require a nurse to administer care.

When it comes to the great ‘nursing home vs care home’ debate, it can sometimes get a little confusing because nursing homes can be referred to as care homes with nursing, and some residential homes can offer support for residents with more complex medical needs such as dementia. In addition, some types of care homes may offer both residential and nursing care.

What is residential care?

Residential care is designed to help people with daily activities in a home-like setting with 24-hour support. It ensures that those who are unable to live independently but do not require full-time care can remain active and enjoy life to the fullest. Residents can request help with washing, dressing, mobility and personal care but are also encouraged to be as independent as possible.

Residential care can be further subdivided into different types:

  • Long-term
  • Short-term
  • Respite
  • Emergency
  • Palliative care

Some residential care homes may specialise in certain disabilities or dementia (specifically those with dementia who do not yet need nursing care).

When living in a residential care home, the residents’ house chores are taken care of by the domiciliary staff. In addition, homes such as Cedar Care may offer hairdressing services, a cafe area to catch up with friends, beautifully landscaped gardens to enjoy, and a full range of activities to suit every taste. 

While residential care homes tend not to be as expensive as nursing homes because they don’t need the same medical support, it’s important to keep in mind that the weekly price depends on:

  • Amenities
  • Type of care
  • Location

While a residential care home may be a good option for anyone needing help with mobility and basic care, let’s take a closer look at nursing homes that offer more specialised medical services.

What is a nursing home?

A nursing home is a facility for residents who have more complex medical needs, and therefore, the staff-to-patient ratio is higher than in a residential care home. 

Other services provided might include:

  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech therapy. 

Although they offer long-term care, sometimes nursing homes are used on a short-term basis when an elderly patient needs to recuperate after a spell in hospital but is not yet ready to return to their own home, perhaps following surgery after a fall or after a stroke.

Within nursing homes, there can be differences, and it’s essential to consider these when making your choice. In contrast to larger facilities that provide around-the-clock access to a large number of medical staff members, smaller nursing homes may have fewer staff members working on any given shift. If you are looking for more medical care, it’s worth looking at the patient-to-staff ratio to ensure you will have the level of support you need. 

Tips to help you make a choice

Deciding where to live is always a big decision, and it’s no different when considering a care home for yourself or a loved one. So, to help remove some of that stress, here are our top tips for choosing the right home – whether residential or nursing.

Think about your lifestyle and social needs

A home with lots of activities can help keep your mind/body active and healthy as you get older. So think about whether you want a busy or quiet lifestyle and how much time you’ll spend alone.

You may also want to consider whether it’s important to live near family members, friends or neighbours who can visit regularly. Or perhaps you’d rather live in an area where everyone knows each other well so they can support each other socially.



The facilities provided will depend on each residential or nursing home. For example, meals may be included or at additional cost, while night care may vary from having overnight staff to alarm systems.

When it comes to activities offered, this will also vary. At Cedar House Care, we provide arts and crafts, book club sessions and even organised day trips.

It’s important to note that there are also some differences between government-funded facilities and privately-owned businesses. Ensure you carry out your research thoroughly and create a shortlist of candidates to visit.


Don’t be afraid to ask questions

If you’re thinking about moving into a care home, ask lots of questions about what your new life will be like there – including what activities are available, how much help is available should you need it and how easy it is to get around inside the building. You might also want to ask about the type of food served and whether any religious services are held regularly on site.

But never decide without first visiting. Only by viewing the home in person will you be able to get a sense of how happy the residents are, whether the facilities are appropriate for your needs and the caring nature of the staff.


When it comes to the nursing home vs care home discussion, we hope this article has helped clarify some of the differences between a care home and a nursing home. Remember, no two people’s needs are the same, so it’s essential to understand your lifestyle and social needs, along with the facilities you are looking for. Whether you’re considering a residential care home or nursing home, each facility will have its unique services.

If you’re unsure about what kind of facility is best suited for you or a loved one, consider reaching out for further guidance. For any questions, you can always give us a call, or feel free to pop in for a tea or coffee to find out more about our services at Cedar House.