There may come a time when the person you care for can no longer live at home. This may be because their care needs have increased, or because you’re no longer able to provide the care they need. Residential care can be a sensible and realistic option.
What is residential care?
Residential care means long-term care provided in a care home. It’s for people who need substantial help with their personal care. There are two main types of care home:
- Residential - they offer personal care, such as help with washing, dressing, going to the toilet and taking medication.
- Nursing - they provide personal care and also have qualified nurses on duty at all times. They can be suitable for people who require frequent medical attention.
How will I know if residential care is the right option?
It might be time to consider residential care if the person you care for:
- is struggling to live at home, even with support
- has had a needs assessment that suggested a care home is the best option
- has a complex medical condition that needs attention both day and night.
It might feel hard to think about residential care, and you may have conflicting feelings about it. Carers have told us they experience sadness and guilt, as well as relief the person they care for is getting the level of help they need. Caring can be physically and mentally exhausting, so it’s better to arrange residential care rather than struggle on until you reach crisis point.
“I know that feeling of having a huge weight lifted off your shoulders. It's what I felt when I made the decision that my brother had to be in a care home, and simply could not live independently any longer. I also know the guilt that comes with that decision.” Anon – Forum user
If possible, talk to the person you care for about how they feel about moving to residential care and discuss what’s best for both of you. It may help to talk to a friend, relative, another carer, or your GP or social worker if you find the thought of a move upsetting or difficult.
Moving into residential care will often mean your caring role ends or changes. If you’ll still be providing care to the person, then you may still be eligible for support from the local council or trust , as well as benefits and rights at work.
If the person you care for can’t make decisions for themselves, then you can make decisions on their behalf if you have power of attorney or you’re a court appointed deputy. If you don’t have either of these, the care home should still take your feelings and views into account when decisions are made on behalf of the person. Read the managing someone’s affairs section of our website to find out more about powers of attorney and deputies.
How do I find residential care?
Your local council or trust can provide a list of care homes in the area, and tell you which ones are within their budget if they’re paying towards the cost (see below), or within the budget of the person you look after if they’re paying for a place themselves.
There are different care home regulators across the UK. They inspect care homes and produce reports on them. They have online directories you can use to find care homes near you.
- In England, visit the Care Quality Commission website
- In Wales, visit the Care Inspectorate Wales website
- In Scotland, visit the Care Inspectorate website
- In Northern Ireland, visit the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority website
You can also use the Housing Care services directory which enables you to search online for care homes and care agencies anywhere in the UK.
Sit down with the person you care for to discuss what’s important to them. This could include the location, facilities, activities on offer, or cultural or religious requirements, for example. Which of these are essential, and which are desirable?
When you’ve made a shortlist of potential homes, go and visit them. Care homes should be happy for you to visit to look around and answer any questions you both may have. Which? has a useful downloadable checklist of questions to ask.
Paying for residential care
The person you look after may qualify for help with the cost of care home fees from their local council or trust (depending on their income and capital), or from the NHS if they have specific medical needs. Or they may have to pay the full costs themselves, known as self-funding.
If the council or trust has assessed the person you look after as needing residential care, the next step is to look at their capital (which includes their savings, investments and property). If this is over a certain amount, the person will need to pay for their care themselves. We explain this in more detail below.
If the person is below the capital limit, then they will have a full financial assessment to see if their council or trust will help with the cost. Contact the Carers UK Helpline for more information.
If the person you look after has capital over a certain limit, they will have to pay the full cost of their care home fees. Only their capital, plus half of any joint capital, can be taken into account. The capital limit for 2022/23 is:
- in England and Northern Ireland - £23,250
- in Wales - £50,000
- in Scotland - £29,750
If the person you look after owns their own home, its value isn’t always taken into consideration. It won’t be counted if certain people live there, including:
- their spouse, civil partner or partner
- a lone parent if they’re the person’s estranged or divorced partner
- their child (under 18 in England and Wales, or under 16 in Scotland and Northern Ireland)
- a relative who is 60 or over or ‘incapacitated’, meaning they qualify for certain disability benefits
If their home will be considered, they may still be entitled to a 12-week property disregard. This means the council or trust must not include the value of their property in their financial assessment for 12 weeks. The idea is to give someone time to prepare their property for sale or decide whether they want to sell. The council or trust will contribute towards their fees for 12 weeks, or until their property sells, whichever is sooner.
The council or trust can also agree to ignore the value of their home in other circumstances too. For example, if you gave up your home to become a live-in carer, the council may agree not to include the cared-for person’s home in the financial assessment if it has become your only home.
In England and Wales
If the person you care for has long-term complex health needs, they may qualify for free social care from the NHS. This would mean all their care would be paid for, including their care home fees, regardless of their income and savings. This is called NHS Continuing Healthcare. The eligibility criteria are strict but it’s worth asking for an assessment if you think it might apply. Read more about it on our page about NHS Continuing Healthcare.
If the person you care for isn’t eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare, they may still qualify for NHS-funded nursing care. If they live in a nursing home and are assessed as needing nursing care, the NHS will pay towards the cost of their registered nursing care.
There is a different system in Scotland that is only available to people in hospital. It doesn’t apply to people in residential care.
In Northern Ireland
NHS Continuing Healthcare is available in Northern Ireland, but it might not be easy to access and getting an assessment can be challenging. Contact your local Health and Social Care Trust for guidance and support and for helpful information, visit nidirect.gov.uk/articles/assessments-carers
If the person you look after doesn’t qualify for help with their fees, they may need to consider paying the full cost themselves. They should make sure the fee is clear and that they understand what any charges are for and when they’re due. There are local support groups that can help offer advice and guidance – see our local directory or contact our Carers UK Helpline.
How will a move to residential care affect our benefits?
If you or the person you look after receive any benefits, they may be affected when they move into residential care. Click on the relevant option below for more information.
If the person you look after:
- is a self-funder, they will continue to receive Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Attendance Allowance.
- gets help with the fees from their local council or trust, then the care component of DLA, the daily living component of PIP or Attendance Allowance will stop after 28 days. They might stop sooner than this if the person has been in residential care or hospital in the 28 days before their move to a care home. They will continue to receive the mobility component of DLA or PIP.
- gets NHS Continuing Healthcare, their DLA, PIP or Attendance Allowance will stop after 28 days (or sooner if they have been in residential care or hospital in the 28 days before their move to a care home).
Although their disability benefits might stop while they’re in the care home, the person you look after will still be entitled to them. This means they can claim their benefits for any days they’re at home - even if it’s just for part of the day.
For example, if the person you look after is in a care home from Monday to Friday and home at the weekends, they can claim their disability benefit for four days a week - Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. If they do this regularly, you may still be able to claim Carer’s Allowance. Contact the Carers UK Helpline for help if you’re in this situation.
If the person you look after:
- is a self-funder, and so continues to get their qualifying disability benefit, you can still receive Carer’s Allowance if you care for them for at least 35 hours a week. This may be the case if they come home at weekends, for example
- isn’t a self-funder and so their qualifying disability benefit stops, then your Carer’s Allowance will stop at the same time.
If you get any means-tested benefits such as Housing Benefit, Council Tax Support or Pension Credit, you may have qualified for extra money paid with them if you were entitled to Carer’s Allowance. This extra money is called a Carer Premium or Carer Addition. If your Carer’s Allowance stops, you can still get this extra money for eight weeks.
If you get Universal Credit, this extra money is called a Carer Element. If your Carer’s Allowance stops, you can get this additional amount for the rest of your Universal Credit assessment period.
If the person you look after is your partner, civil partner or spouse, you will no longer be assessed as a couple after they move into residential care. You will both be assessed as single claimants. This may mean your benefits change, or you become entitled to benefits for the first time. Get a benefits check to find out more by using either entitled to or the Turn2Us benefits calculator. Or visit our get in touch page to find out how to get further help.