Live-in care Vs Other types of care

Written by Jack Walsh20/10/23


Live-in care

Quick overview

Choosing a care option for your loved one can be a difficult process and usually follows a big life change for many families.

It is common for families to be pointed towards standard care options such as care homes, however there are other, potentially more suitable options available.

Live-in care is an alternative to typical care types, offering full-time care and support in the comfort of your own home.

For many families, choosing a care option can be a difficult process – especially as it often comes as a result of a big change to the life of someone close to you – following a stroke, a fall or a diagnosis of a medical condition, like dementia.

It’s often a hard moment. Deciding which care option is best for your loved one can feel like an overwhelming decision. You’ll likely already have a social worker or health professional who can advise on the choices available to you. This can be a great source of support.

However, sometimes they can present limited options in terms of providers, or suggest a care home as the primary option. There’s actually a much broader variety of choices available. One is caring for your loved one yourself or sharing the responsibility with the rest of the family. But, often, this isn’t practical.

Life gets in the way – whether it’s going to work or looking after the kids – meaning it can be difficult or impossible for you to provide all the care your loved one needs, even if they live close by.

As well as the issue of having to make significant changes to your life, comes the matter of expertise. Medical conditions may mean that they need a high level of care that can only be provided by a professional.


What are the different types of care available?

Although care homes have always been the go-to for many, nowadays, there are various care options for families to consider for their loved ones. Different options tend to be better for different situations, and there’s never a right or wrong decision.

Either way, it pays to do your research. You may need to be proactive to put in place what you think is best. So, let’s start by running through the most common care types available. The main types of care are:

Remember, it’s a personal decision

Remember, ultimately, it comes down to a family decision on what’s best for both you and your loved one. You shouldn’t be pressured towards choosing one option or another.

Nursing homes



Nursing homes, often called care homes with nursing, are staffed by registered nurses supported by care assistants. The care is planned and supervised by a nurse, but much of the hands-on support is provided by care assistants who’ve completed the appropriate training.

Many carers in nursing homes have National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) in Health and Social Care, and sometimes further training in supporting people with various health issues.

What is a nursing home?

Nursing homes provide care and accommodation for those with more advanced needs. Often, it’ll be the only option available to you if these needs are particularly complex, intense or unpredictable.

Your loved one would have their own room, in which they’d be able to keep some of their most prized possessions. Often these can be made to feel quite homely but, it goes without saying, they won’t be able to take everything with them. This can take some getting used to.

A lot of effort is made to help make the residents feel welcome. Most nursing homes give their clients the option of dining with the other residents or in their own room, and there are often organised activities on offer. This can really help foster a sense of community, which can be invaluable in the later stages of someone’s life – when loneliness can become a common concern.

What’s the difference between nursing homes and care homes?

The difference between nursing homes and care homes is that nursing homes have trained nurses on hand to help. Residential care homes are predominantly focused on supporting people without nursing support in residence.

However, if your loved one moves into a nursing home, they’ll have to adjust to the routines that keep the home functioning efficiently – for example, bedtimes are often kept relatively close together.

It should be said, many nursing homes are moving towards person-centred care, meaning they try to offer their residents as much choice as possible in their daily living. But, clearly, there’s only so much they can do.

In such a facility, safety is a key priority. There will usually be a call-bell system, meaning your loved one can call for help at any time of the day or night, with a nurse on hand. This can be very reassuring, especially if your loved one has very changeable needs.

Ultimately, nursing homes offer a level of care in between a care home and a hospital ward.

Luckily, funding for those who require nursing care is often much more readily available compared to those requiring less intensive social care. If you’ve been told by a health or social care professional that this is the best option, you should ask about NHS Continuing Healthcare or NHS-Funded Nursing Care. These can help you meet all, or part, of the costs.

Care homes 



A care home tends to be the primary option for elderly care and is usually considered when a loved one is struggling to live alone.

Following a care needs assessment by a local council, a care home is usually recommended by social care professionals, such as a social worker or occupational therapist. There are systemic reasons they’ll refer you to residential care first. Namely, that it’s cheaper and it’s what they’re used to.

Care homes offer a secure place for a relative to stay, with someone on hand night and day to respond to emergencies. Many provide additional medical attention, though they may not always be equipped to cater for particular needs. Likewise, facilities and amenities – single rooms, gardens, visiting schedules, special events and so on – vary from home to home.

Those living in care homes have their own bedrooms and bathrooms, but share all communal areas – for example, lounges, dining rooms, and gardens – with the other residents. Staff provide meals, housekeeping services and assistance with everyday needs – dressing, mobility, personal hygiene and so on.

But since the number of staff varies from residence to residence, so does the amount of one-on-one care your loved one receives.

There are clear advantages. Care homes alleviate the stress associated with having to care for a loved one yourself. They provide the reassurance that your loved one is being cared for throughout the day and night.

They can also be very sociable environments that can help your loved one fend off loneliness. Group activities, days out and a close relationship between residents and staff are common.

What is a care home?

A residential care home is a facility that provides accommodation and personal care. It differs from a nursing home in that there are no nurses on-site. The support provided is centred around social care needs.

As well as this practical support for the elderly, care homes can also help in other ways. Many will lay on social activities and have in-house hairdressers, themed evenings, collective celebrations, and visiting therapists.

 When deciding on a care home for your loved one, these are the kind of additional benefits you should look out for. Be careful to do your due diligence. Make sure you visit any facility you’re considering before you go with it.

Care home lifestyle

Care home staff make an effort to create as independent and inclusive a lifestyle as possible. They host events, encourage exercise and offer increased independence to low-risk residents. And for many residents, care homes can become a close-knit community where security and friendship go hand in hand.

But when they move into a care home, your loved one leaves behind the familiarity and comfort of their own four walls. They may have to move some way from their nearest and dearest, and may not be able to take all of their belongings with them (or a pet, if they have one). In short, this jump from independent to residential living can feel like a pretty significant overhaul of the way they live their lives.

Moving to a care home can be a disruptive process, especially for those with dementia. It can be difficult adjusting to a regimented way of living for some although for others the sense of routine can be beneficial. The best type of care for one person may not always be for another – which is why it is important to understand the different options available. There are specialist dementia care homes with have been designed to limit confusion and make the home more accessible and comfortable. Some care  Staff will have Alzheimer’s care training, and may have higher staff to patient ratios than general nursing or care homes. 

Ask lots of questions – particularly about hidden costs, this is something that has been highlighted by Citizens Advice as a persistent issue.


Assisted living



Assisted living is a type of care that allows the care recipient to retain a certain level of independence, while still receiving help with things such as washing, dressing and toileting, as well as taking medication where necessary.

What is assisted living?

Assisted living is a type of ‘housing with care’. It differs from a care home in that it can allow a much greater level of independent living. Those who live in assisted living developments will have their own self-contained flat, which has its own door. But, like a care home, there are staff on call 24-hours a day who can assist with personal care and support.

Assisted living facilities are generally a community and there are organised social activities so they can be a very social place to live. In addition, there are also often communal lounges for residents to socialise as they please.

You might be better off looking at alternatives

With costs being so high for assisted living developments, you might be better off asking your local authority about financial support to make your home fit for the future. Up to £35,000 is available for adaptations with the Disabled Facilities Grant, and up to £1,000 is available for minor adaptations. It means your loved one can stay in their own home.

Some assisted living houses are available to privately rent or even buy, and some are available from the local council – how you go about this will depend on your financial circumstances and care needs. In some ways, assisted living is a good medium point between staying at home and moving into residential care. Your loved one gets their own private space, adapted to their needs, with support on hand.

However, it still entails a degree of disruption. This can still be very distressing for those living with dementia. There are other problems too – it can be hard to find a space in such a development.

Visiting home care



This type of care, also known as domiciliary care, is usually carried out by a caregiver who visits the person’s home at set times to help with whatever is needed. The amount of time carers spend with their clients can vary from just one short visit every day, to three or four half-hour sessions, depending on a person’s needs. It’s a great option for people with low to mid level needs who can safely spend periods of time at home without supervision. 

What is home care?

If your loved one is receiving this kind of care at home, they need to accept that the carer’s time is limited and their schedule must be kept. This can limit choices about various aspects of their lifestyle, such as what time to get up and go to bed, and when to eat their meals.

Domiciliary care assistants often provide in-home care to many different people throughout the day. Their schedule is stretched and sometimes they might be late reaching your loved one if they’ve been held up for any reason with a previous client.

Depending on the provider or agency you choose, it’s also common to have a mixture of carers, rather than one carer doing all the visits. Choosing a private self-employed carer can usually guarantee better continuity. 

In addition to personal care, people receiving care in their own home can often get other forms of help such as meals on wheels or assistance with transport to appointments.

You can request the social services department of your loved one’s local authority to carry out a care needs assessment to determine what help they require. Some people are eligible for financial help with their care costs, and the authority can check your loved one’s position by carrying out a means test to check their income, savings and assets. This will determine whether they will need to contribute towards the cost of their care.

Live-in care




Live-in care is when a carer moves into your loved one’s house to take on all their care needs and keep them safe and comfortable. This can include help with personal care such as washing, dressing, eating, and mobility, but is not restricted to this. It’s general support to help someone to live independently, and to lead the best possible life they can in older age.

What is live-in care?

Live-in care offers an alternative solution to standard care options, such as residential care. The care will usually work on a rota basis with another person, working four weeks on and one week off.

This is the preferred option for many people in need of elderly care. However, families are often put off because they think the costs are simply too high. This is a common misconception. A large part of the costs in care homes is the so-called ‘hotel costs’, such as catering, housekeeping, and activities. Something you don’t have to pay when you’re receiving care in your own home.

Types of live-in care

A key advantage of live-in care is that it’s one-on-one. The experience of the carer can be matched specifically to the requirements of your loved one. As a care type, this means it’s quite flexible in the level of support it provides.

What are the differences between live-in care and other types of care?

With live-in care, your loved one is able to remain close to family and friends, and doesn’t have to pick and choose which belongings to hold onto. In fact, there’s no need to change anything about the way they live their lives, other than to make space for a new tenant.

As live-in care providers, we know how important it is to get that right, too. That’s why we make the time to match care recipients with caregivers we think they’ll love.

Live-in carers are carefully matched with their client – so they have similar interests, hobbies and personalities. This means we’ll try to pair keen chefs with keen chefs, football enthusiasts with football enthusiasts and outdoorsy types with outdoorsy types.

Because  the carer moves into the home, it’s really in everyone’s interests to try to ensure your loved one is matched with someone they’ll really get along well with.

Some carers who provide this type of care at home are able to drive your loved one to meetings, appointments or any social activities they would like to attend, allowing them to maintain independent living even when their health or mobility is compromised.

In addition to general personal care needs and domestic tasks, specialist live-in carers are experienced in caring for those with specific conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s. For those with more intensive care needs, intermittent nursing care can also be utilised from a district nurse.

24-hour care

24-hour care is when your loved one has carers looking after them for every hour of the day. It’s a very intensive form of social care, often for those with life-limited or life-changing conditions or prognosis. End of life palliative care is often given  24-hours a day.

Care homes often provide 24-hour support, as do nursing homes. But live-in care can also be 24-hours. Where standard live-in care involves one carer who works up to a 12-hour shift and then stays overnight, with flexibility for three awakenings, 24-hour care involves two or more carers working in rotation to ensure there’s always support available. Because in-home care on a 24-hour-a-day basis involves one-to-one support for your loved one, it ensures they are consistently receiving the care they require.

And, if your loved one is in the last days, weeks, or months of their life, it’s really crucial their spirits are lifted as much as possible during this precious time. Having someone to chat to and share their life with can make all the difference.

Dementia care

Due to the nature of the conditions defined as dementia – such as Alzeimher’s, Lewy Body dementia, vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia – it is important to have a proper support system in place.

Dementia live-in care can help those living with dementia retain a level of independence, and continue to live a fulfilling life for as long as possible. Dementia care is a specialist type of care which is carried out by those who are trained to do so.

Having a consistent carer who’s in residence for the majority of the time means a familiar person will be helping them with intimate tasks. This could mean they’re more likely to accept the kind of help that could feel quite intrusive in a nursing home, where there may be many different staff members and less familiarity.


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