It’s no secret that the UK population is ageing. We’re all living longer than ever due to advances in medicine. Although most older people live independently and have fulfilling lives, a growing number need some sort of support. If you’re supporting an elderly parent, it’s a difficult situation. Do you look into residential care? Or would it be better to keep them at home, buying in the services you need to help look after them? There are no easy answers, but each option has its own advantages and disadvantages. Of course, the decision will depend ultimately on your own situation. But knowing the full picture should make the choice a bit clearer.  

Home Care – what is it?

Home care is exactly what it says on the tin. This concept refers to all the sorts of care which you receive in your own home. This can be a very flexible approach. It’s a useful approach for people who are physically well and who don’t need regular nursing care. Home carers can come in once or twice a day to help with routine tasks, such as bathing or cooking. Other older people have people coming in to drive them to appointments, or just to chat and have a cup of tea. There are numerous services available, depending on where you life.  


  • Most elderly people much prefer living at home than going into residential care.
  • Because most people want to be at home, supporting them in doing this can lead to increased mental wellbeing and significant health benefits too. Surveys show that people who are able to be cared for at home have fewer hospital admissions.
  • Home care, especially for those without significant medical needs, can be a lot cheaper than going into a care home.
  • Home care is the ideal form of care for people with dementia, who might get confused and upset by a change in circumstances and routine.
  • There are lots of agencies offering care services. These are strictly regulated. All carers need an enhanced DBS check into their criminal record. Family should therefore have all the reassurance they need about safety and standards of training.


  • Adaptation- depending on the person’s property and their needs, the house might need expensive building work to adapt it appropriately.
  • Finding carers – there is an acute shortage of carers in many parts of the country and finding good standards of care at the times you require can often be tricky.
  • Upkeep – if someone is living at home, and is unable to do the basics of maintaining their property, fixing things which break and paying the bills, this is unlikely to be something carers will do.
  • Isolation – people who are at home may lack social contact, if the only people they see each day are care staff.

Residential Care

Many older people perceive residential care as “going into a home” but it doesn’t have to be that style of accommodation. Sheltered housing and other types of supported living also fall under this umbrella. Just like being looked after at home, there are a number of advantages and disadvantages.  


  • Round the clock – perhaps the main advantage to residential care is that there is someone around at all times of the day and night. Residents are never left on their own.
  • Nursing – older people who require specialist nursing care often do better in a setting where there are trained nurses on site.
  • Standards – Care homes have to come up to minimum standards set down by law, and are regularly inspected. A care home which doesn’t come up to scratch could be shut down.
  • Social – Most care homes provide individual bedrooms for residents, but with the option to spend time in communal lounges during the day. Most also run a programme of activities for residents.
  • No maintenance – when someone sells up and goes into a care home, there’s no longer the need to maintain a house, pay a council tax bill and so on.


  • Reputation – there’s still a bit of a stigma about residential care and “putting granny in a home”, even if that’s the best thing for everyone concerned.
  • Cost – The average annual bill for a care home is £30,000. Some places might be funded, but this will depend on where you live, and the resident’s needs.
  • Selling home – many people going into care don’t want to have to sell the family home to fund it.
  • Rules – pets are often not allowed. Residents can find it hard to come to terms with living by other people’s rules.