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alternatives to residential care

Alternative options

If you don’t need residential care but you are experiencing difficulties managing at home and feel you may need some assistance then there are some alternative options available (these choices will naturally be dependent on your community care or needs assessment)

Retirement housing is a good option if you want to retain your independence and remain as self reliant as possible, safe in the knowledge that you are in a secure environment with help at hand when you need it. There is also a social life that you can be as involved in as much or as little as you wish. .

There are 2 types of retirement housing: sheltered housing or assisted living. Developments usually come in the form of purpose built apartments or bungalows and careful consideration is required before you decide which one is best for your needs.

Sheltered Housing

Sheltered Housing usually takes the form of a development of one or two bedroom apartments with private access but a communal entrance, laundry and lounge. There is usually a resident house manager who can be called for assistance and quite often an unobtrusive monitoring device that confirms you are up and about in the morning. Sometimes it’s as simple as a quick call to check that all’s well. Just like your present home you will have a lounge, kitchen and bathroom and the freedom to decorate and furnish your apartment to your own taste. For added security there will be an emergency pull cord in each room, which is a great comfort in later years.

Assisted Living

These developments are usually located in the grounds of a care home but still take the form of a bungalow or apartment. You still live independently but extra services are available to make life a little easier. Meals, a laundry service and cleaning of your home can be provided and in most cases hairdressers, physiotherapists, chiropodists, opticians and dentists make regular visits. All rooms have 24-hour emergency call facilities for complete security. There is always the option to move into the care home if your health deteriorates or you or your spouse become more dependent, without major disruption to your lifestyle.

Retirement homes can be rented or purchased and, as when choosing a residential home, there are a number of important issues to think about before making a decision.  Do bear in mind the location and access to public transport but pay specific attention to the communal areas such as the residents lounge and if the laundry is well maintained and equipped.  And remember that your new flat or bungalow will need to meet your future needs as well.

Once you’ve found somewhere suitable ask for a breakdown of charges based on the property you have selected and also how any future increases are negotiated. To this you need to add your personal moving costs such as professional fees, removals and stamp duty. Once you have done this make sure you can afford everything when you have sold your house and added this to your savings, investments and income. You may also want to account for any additional care that you may need in the future.

Check on the ownership and management of your new property. Find out if they have a satisfactory track record and if they are members and abide by the code of practice of the Association of Retirement Housing Managers.

There is no substitute for professional help so make sure you talk through your plans with your bank manager, accountant or financial advisor. Your solicitors will check out everything to do with the property including the lease, charges and payment terms. You can also get them to find out about any conditions or charges which may be imposed if you decide to re-sell the property. If the property is part of an Assisted Living or Close Care development they can also clarify the procedure for moving you into a care home if it becomes necessary.

Having looked at the practical side of moving to a retirement home you need to make sure you will be happy after you move in so see if you can talk to some of the residents. If possible have a walk round with them and see things from their point of view. 
Communal living is very different to what you are used to and you need to be as sure as you can that it is for you. However, many people find themselves living in greater isolation as they get older and this, combined with the problems of maintaining a home and garden, makes the move to a residential home a welcome relief. New friends, a social life and a comfortable, safe environment invariably make life more enjoyable and fulfilling.

Care At Home

The preferred option for many is to arrange suitable care at home and this is becoming an increasingly popular choice. This will enable you to live in your own home for as long as possible with all the obvious advantages associated.

The most common services available include things like:

  • Companionship Services - offer companionship, engage in conversation, aid with reading, answer the door etc
  • Domestic help - shopping, preparing meals, housework etc
  • Personal care - assistance with: preparing meals and eating, dressing, bathing, helping with mobility, medication reminders, going to the toilet etc
  • Medical help - changing dressings, administering medication

The levels of care at home can vary widely and can range from hourly visits (although this is very rare) and visits two or three times daily through to live-in care (24 hour companionship and care) and 24 hour care by rota.

Some agencies are also registered to supply nurses to people in their own homes, although nursing must only be carried out by a registered nurse.

The potential downside to this type of care is that it tends to be a long term expense and it can be very lonely (depending on level of service).  Do remember that as well as all the additional care costs incurred, you will still be required to maintain all the regular house bills.

Useful Contacts

Abbeyfield: helps older people enjoy a high quality of independent living provided through a range of services, including housing, support or care, with local community involvement
Tel: 01727 857536 or

Association of Retirement Housing Managers: promotes good practice in the management of leasehold residential properties which are specifically designed and designated for retired older people Tel: 020 7463 0660 or

Care Quality Commission: regulates, inspects and reviews all adult social care services in the public, private and voluntary sectors in England Tel: 03000 616161 or

Counsel and Care For the Elderly: a charity that gives advice and information to older people, their relatives and carers on community care, care homes and housing with care
Tel: 0845 300 7585 or

Elderly Accommodation Counsel: provides advice on elderly care, including specialist information on sheltered housing, extra care housing, assisted living, close care housing and retirement villages Tel: 020 7820 1343 or

Homeshare International: a charity that promotes the exchange of housing for help in the home

Independent Age: helps older people to live with independence and dignity in their later years

Independent Living Fund: If you are severely disabled and you receive home care services to the value of more then £320 per week from your local social services department and you are between 16 and 66 years of age, you may be entitled to help

United Kingdom Home Care Association (UKHCA) is the body that was set up to promote the best possible standard of home care provision to older people
Tel: 020 8288 5291 or

Vitalise Homeshare: a national charity for disabled people, visually impaired people, and carers