an elderly man with a beard being helped by a male carer

Understanding the Difference between Care Homes, Home Care & other Services

Maybe you’ve visited an elderly aunt in a residential home or chatted to a home carer visiting your neighbour. But if you’ve never had to choose the right care for someone special, it helps to know what each kind involves.

Each option offers a different level of support. Selecting which one is the best fit for your loved one depends on individual social and health needs, personal preference, budget and geography.

Types of elderly care can be split into three main categories:


Care Homes

All care homes offer residential accommodation and personal care. Residents have private bedrooms with communal lounge and dining areas.

Run by private companies, local authorities or voluntary organisations, these homes offer different levels of care from basic to specialist:

Care Homes

For everyday personal care needs such as washing, dressing, medication and going to the toilet. Many take residents out on day trips and provide communal activities.

Dementia Care Homes

Have staff qualified and experienced in looking after those with dementia.

Nursing Homes

Have qualified nurses among their staff for essential medical needs.

Dual-Registered Care Homes

Operate as both care and nursing homes. This allows residents who may initially only need basic care but later require nursing care to stay at the same home with no disruption.

Home Care

Home care allows people to retain their independence by not moving away from their home.

Instead, dedicated home carers make regular visits to help with everyday tasks such as getting in and out of bed, washing, shopping, cooking and cleaning. Alongside these basics, they can also provide invaluable friendship and emotional support.

Live-in carers are also available for people who need round-the-clock care and company.

Sometimes referred to as domiciliary care or home help, it’s a great option for people who want flexibility. There’s no long-term commitment involved and arrangements can be adapted as specific needs change.

Home care services are provided by local authorities, private agencies and highly-skilled self-employed carers like those registered with Holm.

a smiling elderly lady holding a hand

Specialist Housing

A middle-ground option is to opt for housing specifically designed for those who feel they need more support but want to maintain a degree of independence.


These schemes provide smaller, easier-to-manage homes on a site overseen by a warden or support staff.

Usually only available to the over-55s, 24-hour emergency help is available via an alarm system to reassure both residents and families. Shared lounges and gardens, alongside on-site social activities add to a sense of community.

Features vary by scheme but sheltered housing doesn’t usually include additional support such as cooking and bathing. Instead, care packages can be arranged as they would be in a regular home via social services or a private provider.


Also known as extra-care housing, assisted living is a step up from sheltered housing as it includes personal care services.

Residents have independence in their own self-contained flat alongside the security of 24/7 care and support. Staff are on hand to help with washing, dressing and cooking, as well as domestic chores such as laundry and shopping. They can also enjoy communal areas for social activities and company when wanted.

To learn more about the different types of care services, and other important issues related to supporting and caring for the elderly, download our free guide to elderly care.

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