Moving into residential care

This information applies to England and Wales.

Moving into residential care is a big decision, and there may not be an option that suits all your needs. It can help to think about:

  • what’s changed and why your situation no longer works
  • what type of accommodation can meet more of your needs
  • how your life will change if you decide to move
  • how you’ll pay for residential care

There are different types of housing available if you find that your living situation no longer works for you.

Residential care homes

In a residential care home, you’ll usually have your own bedroom and bathroom. You may share living and dining rooms with other residents. Staff are available day and night to support you. The cost usually includes:

  • personal care, like help with washing, dressing and going to the toilet
  • help with medication
  • meals
  • laundry
  • 24-hour support

Residential care homes often have activities you can join. They will usually do their best to support you with outside interests, such as continuing education or going to a day centre.

While you’ll live in a safe place, you may find that it’s more expensive than what you are used to. Some people also lose some of their independence and struggle with:

  • fitting into the home’s schedule for getting up, mealtimes and going to bed
  • a smaller living space and being unable to take all their belongings
  • sharing communal spaces and getting along with other residents
  • less privacy and more noise
  • keeping in touch with friends and neighbours
  • less money for personal use

Supported living

Supported living involves renting or buying a self-contained flat, apartment or bungalow. This is usually run by a council, charity or housing association. This is sometimes called sheltered housing or independent living.

You’ll have your own front door, kitchen and bathroom so you can live independently. You’ll have a phone number you can call if you need support. This may not include personal care, advice or emotional support. There is also usually an alarm system for emergencies.

Sometimes there’s an option to rent a room in a shared house with other people or to live in adapted accommodation in the community.

Your benefits may cover the cost of your rent, but you may need to pay for other things including:

  • utility bills like Council Tax, water, gas and electricity
  • charges to cover things like maintenance to the building and alarm system

5 reasons to consider sheltered housing (Which?)

If you need personal care, you may need a separate assessment for a care service.

There are a few supported living schemes available for younger people to live with disabled people their own age.

Housing options for younger disabled adults (NHS)

Shared Lives schemes

Some areas can match you with an approved Shared Lives carer. You live as part of their family and can get help with everyday tasks. This can include things like:

  • cooking
  • washing clothes
  • going to appointments

Some people choose to move in, while others will visit for the day or overnight. You may need to fit in with their routine. It may not be possible if you have more complex needs.

Is Shared Lives for me? (Shared Lives Plus)

Find your local Shared Lives scheme (NHS)

Homeshare living schemes

Homeshare living schemes match people who need some daily support with people who are willing to help. The helper moves into your home and may help with:

This can help you stay independent in your home and give you company. Homeshare will match you with someone based on your needs. They’ll carry out a background check and you’ll get to interview the person first. They then help you agree what support you get. You will need to pay a monthly administration fee.

How Homeshare living works (Homeshare UK)

Organising residential care

Social services will decide whether you need residential care. It’s likely that they will ask you why your situation is not working for you first. They will look at your needs, either by:

  • carrying out a needs assessment
  • reviewing your previous needs assessment

Part of this will look at the cost of your existing care and what other options will meet your needs. You might need to complete a lot of paperwork. Depending on your situation, they may suggest moving into residential care or having carers come into your home if they believe this will meet your needs within their budget.

Even if you plan to pay for residential care yourself, social services may still insist that you have a needs assessment. The person supporting you can also have a carer’s needs assessment.

How to get a carer’s assessment

Social services will give you a list of residential care options to choose from if they decide this is more suitable.

Find your local social services (GOV.UK)

For example, social services give you a list of care homes they work with. But you do not feel they can meet all of your needs. They must give you a decision in writing. You can then give them evidence of why you do not feel the options are suitable.

You do not have to take their offer, but they might say they can no longer help if you refuse.

If you feel under pressure to move, get advice.

Choosing a care home

Researching your options

Before you make a decision, use the Which? checklist of questions to ask when choosing a care home.

This will help you think about your needs and what things are important for you, such as:

  • location
  • room and facilities
  • care and support
  • activities, socialising and visiting
  • daily living and schedules

There’s a lot to think about. It can help to ask family and friends to help you research.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) publishes reports about how well homes are managed. Once you have a shortlist of care homes, read the inspection reports. There are usually summaries of the report available that can give you an overview. A high turnover of staff could suggest that staff are unhappy there. Regular inspections could suggest that there are problems.

You could also try searching for reviews on social media and forums.

Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection reports

Find the regulator of care providers in your area (Which?)

Visiting care homes

You should be able to visit care homes before making a decision. Take someone with you and use your visit to:

  • take a tour and get a first impression of the home, facilities and residents
  • find out about fees, additional costs and contract terms
  • see what activities are happening

Ask about:

  • outings and transport: how can you access and pay for these?
  • mealtimes: can you have meals alone, at different times, with visiting friends, outside planned menus?
  • any personal wishes that are important to you

If staff mention ‘recovery’ or ‘rehabilitation’, this could mean that they try to help people move back into the community after a stay at the home.

You may want to organise further visits or even visit without notice to get a feel for what the home is like.

Once you’re happy with your choice, think about arranging a trial stay before committing.

How to choose a care home (Which?)

Paying for residential care

If social services decide that residential care is best for you, unless you pay yourself your care will either be paid by:

Paying for a care home (Which?)

Paying for your own care (NHS)

Warning Your benefits

Moving into a residential care home can affect the benefits you receive.

Benefits that stop being paid if you live in a care home (Turn2us)

If you feel under pressure to move

A change in circumstances can make people rush into a decision. Sometimes people feel under pressure to move into residential care because, among other things:

  • their needs have changed after a sudden deterioration or accident
  • their parents are aging and feel they can no longer provide care social services
  • decide it’s more affordable

Getting an advocate to support you

If you feel under pressure, you can ask social services for an advocate or find someone yourself. Most advocacy services are free.

An advocate is someone you trust, who also knows what your rights are. You can take an advocate with you to social care assessments and appeals. Your advocate can help you to say the things you want to.

They can help you with things like:

  • attending meetings and having difficult conversations
  • making notes
  • completing forms
  • writing letters

Getting an advocate

Get advice

Get legal advice if you feel under pressure to accept even if you do not feel the options meet your needs fully.

Getting legal advice (Citizens Advice)

Contact the Disability Law Service for advice.

Pay for cheaper legal advice through Which?

Last reviewed by Scope on: 25/04/2024

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