Comparing the cost of care

Need information and advice on the costs, pros and cons of different types of housing for older people? Time to weigh up the facts…

In an ideal world, we’d stay in our own homes for our whole life, enjoying the comforts we have there. However, the reality is that as you get older, your home may no longer be suitable, either because you have limited mobility, health issues or simply don’t want to live on your own. At that point, it may be time to look into other options, including sheltered housing, a care home or a nursing home.

Types of care and housing

Your own home – likely to be somewhere that you’ve lived for a while, although it could be a relative’s house (for example a son or daughter) who have asked you to come and live with them.

Sheltered housing – This is a type of accommodation which provides older people over the age of 60 with self-contained flats or bungalows, often in a community of other elderly residents. Some sheltered housing has live-in wardens to provide support and to check on people and 24-hour alarm systems in case you trip and fall. Many will have communal areas such as a garden, laundry or even a lounge. Extra care sheltered housing (also known as ‘very sheltered housing’, ‘assisted living’ or ‘close care’) is similar to standard sheltered housing, but there is a higher level of support and help with personal care is available to those who need it. It’s possible to buy or rent sheltered housing accommodation.

Care home – Sometimes known as residential homes, these provide living accommodation, which includes a room (usually en suite), meals and help with personal care, such as washing, dressing and going to the toilet. Staff will give care during normal short illnesses, but do not provide nursing care. They can be run by private companies or by local councils. Some have a specialist slant, for example, providing specific care for people affected by dementia.

Nursing home – these provide the same services as a care home, but they will employ a certain number of qualified nurses so are more appropriate for people who also require regular medical care. Some care homes will also provide nursing care, often splitting the number of ‘places’ at the home between those that just need personal care and those that need medical care.

Comparing the costs

The cost of staying at home vs going into sheltered housing, a care home or a nursing home can vary widely, depending on the location and the quality of accommodation. However, figures from the Laing & Buisson Care of Older People, UK Market Report 2013/14 suggest the following:

Staying at home: costs will depend on where you live and how much home help and care you need. If you need a carer (for which the average cost is about £15 per hour) and you have a carer 14 hours per week, that’s nearly £11,000 per year. If you need full-time care during the day, costs could go up to £30,000 per year, and for a live-in carer, the cost, according to the Money Advice Service, can be as high as 150,000 per year. However, if you only need to make some adjustments to your home (adding in ramps or grab rails), the costs could be much lower.

Sheltered housing: These follow typical monthly rent prices, so can cost anywhere from £300 to £700 per month, depending on the area you live in. They’ll be further charges for support, which can start from £90 per month upwards. These cover the services provided by the Emergency Alarm Service and/or the Scheme Manager.

Care home: from £480-£640 per week (depending on region and standard of care home) – the average is around £28,500 per year.

Nursing home: anything from £750 per week upwards (depending on region and standard of care home) – the average is around £37,500 per year.

Financial support for care at home

Remember, whether you decide to stay at home or move, there is usually some kind of financial help that you or a carer can claim. This could be a Personal Independence Payment (PIP), Attendance allowance or Carer’s Allowance.

Financial support for nursing care

If you’ve recently left hospital and need medical care, either at home or in a nursing care home, you may qualify for NHS continuing healthcare funding, which provides for individuals who have a need for ongoing health care outside of hospital.

If you’re in a nursing home permanently, but need regular nursing care, you may qualify for funding from the NHS. Known as ‘NHS-funded nursing care’ (or sometimes registered nursing care contribution [RNCC]), the NHS will pay the care home a standard rate for the nursing element of care. The value of NHS-funded nursing care in 2015-2016 is £112 a week in England and £120.56 in Wales (2015-2016 to be confirmed).

For more information on the financial benefits you can receive to help with care, click here.

Last reviewed 27 July 2015.