Live-In Care vs Nursing & Care Homes

There comes a time when you or your loved one may be considering a potential move to a care home or nursing home, and weighing up the advantages and disadvantages of this option compared to receiving live-in care at home. 

It can feel like a big decision whether you are making it for yourself or on behalf of a loved one, so if you have questions about live-in care versus a nursing or care home, we can help. 

Here, we are comparing all options by breaking down what each one looks like in reality, the difference between a nursing home and a care home, the pros and cons of each option, and how to choose the right one for you. 

At Home Instead, our aim is to help people age positively and in place by bringing expert care to their home. For nearly 20 years, we have been providing the highest standard of care, and creating industry-leading training programmes for our Care Professionals that are accredited by nursing and medical professionals. Today, we are the world’s largest global home care network, supporting over 100,000 older adults with personalised, tailored care at home. So whatever questions you have about home care, we can help. 

What is the difference between a care home and a nursing home?

If you have never looked into different types of homes for older people before, you might assume that care homes and nursing homes are the same thing. In fact, they provide different services so it’s important to know the distinction in case you are considering a move to a facility that can support your needs. 

Put simply, a care home is a communal, residential property that offers a safe, supportive environment for older people to live in. In a care home, ageing adults will receive help with things like getting washed and dressed. They will also be offered meals, have their medication managed, and be able to get involved in a schedule of social activities. 

A nursing home may look similar in that it provides a communal, residential environment for older people to live in and have their daily needs taken care of, but staff in nursing homes are Registered Nurses who can look after residents in need of higher levels of support. This might be something like care for those who have just come out of hospital, have serious health conditions, require vital signs monitoring or wound cleaning, and more. 

Ultimately, the big difference between the two is the presence of qualified nurses within a nursing home, who can provide that extra level of medical care should residents need it. You can think of a nursing home as an intermediary location between home and hospital. 

What is live-in care?

Live-in care means having a trained, professional carer live in your home alongside you so they can provide a bespoke level of care to meet your needs. This option is sometimes preferable to moving into a care home or nursing home as it enables older adults to remain living in the home they know and love, while also receiving the care they need. 

With live-in care, you will have a constant companion to assist with everything from personal care to cooking to housework and more. Plus, if you need medical care your carer can coordinate specialists attending your home. 

Live-in care is available as a long-term solution to keep an older person in their own home. It can also be used as a short-term solution, for example, for anyone who needs additional help after an illness or surgery, or as respite care for a period of time to give family members time off. 

You can read more in our guides to what live-in care is, and how live-in care works.

Live In Care vs Nursing and Care Homes

What are the advantages and disadvantages of live-in care?

Live-in care has many pros and cons, but it is often thought of as a great choice for anyone who needs a little more help than regular home care can provide, such as someone with complex needs like dementia. You can read more about who could benefit from live-in care here, but here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of live-in care: 

Live-in care advantages

  • Opportunities to remain an active part of the community by seeing friends, attending local activities, and enjoying the place you call home.
  • Opportunities to establish a strong bond with carers through shared interests.
  • One-to-one, personalised, focused care and support at all times.
  • Couples can stay together in their own home with live-in care.
  • The opportunity to have control over where palliative care takes place. According to research, 71% of people would prefer to stay at home than go to a hospice. 
  • Live-in care can be a more affordable option, and there is no need to sell your home to finance your stay in a care home.
  • Better wellbeing outcomes for older adults, as studies have found patients who receive home care experience higher levels of patient satisfaction.
  • Familiar surroundings, so older people feel more comfortable. Studies show this can improve the quality of life of those with dementia, and make them less likely to experience confusion than those in care homes. 
  • A sense of independence from staying in your own home. Research suggests interventions to maintain independent living have the potential to improve health perception and self-efficacy in older adults. 
  • More opportunities for friends and family to visit regularly.
  • Flexibility to eat, socialise and sleep when you want to, rather than being bound by a daily schedule. 
  • No need to give up beloved pets, as you can stay in your own home with them.
  • Easy to arrange a trial period so you or your loved one can try live-in care first before you commit to it long-term. 

Live-in care disadvantages

  • Home administration is required when staying at home, so you may need help to pay bills, deal with home repairs and so on. 
  • Discomfort from having a stranger move into the home.
  • Home alterations may be required to make the home safe as your mobility decreases. Luckily, many of these are easily installed, and studies show home assessments and tailored interventions can reduce recurrent falls of older adults by up to 38%.
  • A spare room is required for a live-in carer to have their own space.
  • Palliative care can be difficult from home if family members are helping to care for an individual, as often round-the-clock care is eventually needed.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a care home? 

At Home Instead, we believe live-in home care has more benefits than moving to a care home, however we acknowledge there are also several advantages to care homes. Here are some of their pros and cons: 

Care home advantages

  • A sense of safety from having a lot of people around at all times, and appropriate equipment and infrastructure to help those with mobility issues. 
  • High standards of care due to regulation from the Care Quality Commission.
  • Managed medication schedules and, if relevant, help to administer medications.
  • An active social life and a sense of community, with many opportunities for social contact and entertaining activities like crafting, music, games and more. This can help to keep feelings of loneliness at bay. 
  • An easier way of life, with no cooking, cleaning or administrative responsibilities like paying utility bills or organising health appointments – everything is done for you.
  • No home to maintain, meaning there is no need to keep up with things like gardening and home repairs.

Care home disadvantages

  • According to studies, care home residents have an increased risk of experiencing acute hospitalisations and adverse events, and also have an increased risk of infections due to the close proximity to other residents. 
  • Care homes can sometimes be the more expensive option, and some people may need to sell their home in order to finance them. According to Age UK, it costs on average £800 to £1,078 per week for a place in a care or nursing home depending on where you are in the country. 
  • There is evidence to suggest care home residents see a decline in their health after moving. The Office for National Statistics found that life expectancy for care home residents from 2021-22 ranged from 2.9 to 7 years for female residents, and 2.2 to 6.3 years for male residents; significantly lower compared to non-care home residents.
  • Regulations and routines may be imposed, such as specific mealtimes, limited food choices, specific visiting hours and more. These may not suit all residents. 
  • Moving out of your own home can cause stress and upheaval.
  • All belongings must fit into one room instead of an entire house, so often downsizing is required which can be a stressful experience. 
  • Care homes feel unfamiliar in the beginning. Although there are many positives, some people consider them to be depressing environments compared to their own home.
  • There can be less choice when deciding on a care home if it is being funded by the local council.
  • Couples may need to be separated if only one needs the support of a care home.
  • There is no opportunity for a trial period within a care home, as residents must fully move in to receive the care they need. 

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a nursing home?

Although very similar to the pros and cons of care homes, as mentioned above, there are a few additional advantages and disadvantages to know about for nursing homes: 

Advantages of nursing homes

  • Medical care can be provided 24 hours a day by Registered Nurses supported by Care Assistants.
  • Nursing homes have the appropriate equipment for care and emergency response, if needed.
  • Funding is often more easily available if nursing care is required.
  • An active social life and a sense of community, with many opportunities for social contact and entertaining activities like crafting, music, games and more. This can help to keep feelings of loneliness at bay. 
  • A sense of safety from having a lot of people around at all times, and appropriate equipment and infrastructure to help those with mobility issues.
  • An easier way of life, with no cooking, cleaning or administrative responsibilities like paying utility bills or organising health appointments – everything is done for you.
  • No home to maintain, meaning there is no need to keep up with things like gardening and home repairs.
  • Medications are managed and administered, and any additional medical needs are taken care of.
  • High standards of care due to regulation from the Care Quality Commission.

Disadvantages of nursing homes

  • There can be less choice when deciding on a nursing home if it is being funded by the local council.
  • There is evidence to suggest nursing home residents see a decline in their health after moving. The Office for National Statistics found that life expectancy for care home residents from 2021-22 ranged from 2.9 to 7 years for female residents, and 2.2 to 6.3 years for male residents; significantly lower compared to non-care home residents.
  • Nursing homes can sometimes be the most expensive option, and some people may need to sell their home in order to finance them. According to Age UK, it costs on average £800 to £1,078 per week for a place in a care or nursing home depending on where you are in the country. 
  • Regulations and routines may be imposed, such as specific mealtimes, limited food choices, specific visiting hours and more. These may not suit all residents. 
  • Nursing homes feel unfamiliar in the beginning. Although there are many positives, some people consider them to be depressing environments compared to their own home.
  • Moving out of your own home can cause stress and upheaval.
  • All belongings must fit into one room instead of an entire house, so often downsizing is required which can be a stressful experience. 
  • Couples may need to be separated if only one needs the support of a nursing home.
  • There is no opportunity for a trial period within a nursing home, as ageing adults must fully move in to receive the care they need.

Which is best for me?

It can feel like a big decision to choose between a care or nursing home, or to pursue live-in care within your own home. Deciding what is best for you should only ever be the decision of you and your closest family members, so never feel pressured to be placed anywhere you do not want to be. 

One thing to consider when choosing could be your main priorities at this stage in your life, as these can often point you towards the best option. Think about which of the below you feel most strongly about:  

  • Community – If you want to maintain a connection with your community, family and friends, live-in care could be the best option for this.
  • Safety – If feeling safe and supported at all times is important to you, a care home, nursing home or live-in care can all provide a sense of safety.
  • Personalised care – If you would like one-on-one care, live-in care may be the best choice for you.
  • Finances – If maintaining healthy finances as you age is on your mind, live-in care can be the most cost effective form of care.
  • Independence – If you are worried about losing your independence in life, and having flexibility in everyday activities, live-in care could help encourage this. 
  • Social life – Live-in care means you can stay connected to friends, but a care home or nursing home could be a better fit if you would like lots of activities and entertainment organised for you every day.
  • Medication management – If you have a complex condition that requires a lot of medication, or your medication schedule is complicated, a nursing home could be the best fit to help you manage this. However, live-in care could also deliver what you need within your own home.
  • Loneliness – If you experience loneliness and want to keep this at bay, a care home, nursing home or live-in care can all ensure you get contact and connection each day.
  • Ease – If your aim is to make daily life easier, then a care home or nursing home will likely take more off your plate by doing a lot for you. However, live-in care means you can choose what to continue doing yourself, and what you need help with.
  • Trial period – You may be able to arrange a visit to a care home or nursing home to see the place before you decide to move there, but live-in care is the only option that really enables you to try before you commit.
Live In Care vs Nursing and Care Homes

What types of live-in care does Home Instead provide?

Live-in care is an umbrella term for a number of types of care in which someone might move into an older person’s home with them. While lots of agencies offer their own types of care, you will usually come across: 

  • 24-hour live-in care: For those with round-the-clock needs, 24-hour live-in care means there is always someone (usually at least 2 carers) nearby day or night.
  • Companionship care: Those who do not yet require 24-hour live-in care may feel safer and less lonely with someone in their home at all times, and companionship care offers this.
  • Convalescent care/Intermediate care: This type of care is specifically for those recovering at home after a challenging surgery, injury or illness. If you are worried about post-hospital care, this type of live-in care can ensure you are monitored at all times until you feel better.
  • Complex live-in care: This type of care is designed for those with conditions such as dementia or Parkinson’s who require specially trained and experienced carers.
  • Respite care: Designed to allow other carers or family members to have a break, live-in respite care means a carer will take over caring tasks on a temporary basis. 
  • Emergency home care: Sometimes people need expert care at the drop of a hat, but with emergency home care you can feel safe and supported with a live-in carer moving into your home temporarily to take care of you.
  • Palliative care: For those with a terminal illness, staying at home where they feel comfortable is so important. In these cases, live-in care can be extremely helpful to ensure they have absolutely everything they need during this challenging time. 
Live In Care vs Nursing and Care Homes

At Home Instead, we can provide any of the above services as needed, and include a personalised combination of bespoke services to suit your specific condition. Our Care Professionals are highly trained to deliver the individualised services you need, so no matter what type of home care you require, we can provide a tailored service that suits you or your loved one – get in touch today to learn more.

We’re an award-winning home care provider and part of a worldwide organisation devoted to providing the highest quality relationship-led care for older people in their own homes. Arranging care for yourself or your loved one shouldn’t be stressful, so whatever questions you would like answered, feel free to reach out to the Home Instead team to discuss your needs.