Alternatives To Living At Home

Alternatives To Living At Home

Deciding if an elderly parent is no longer able to live safely at home is, naturally, one of the most difficult choices we ever have to make.  In this section, we’ll attempt to make the decision simpler by talking you through some alternative living solutions.

Another thing you can do to determine what type of housing is best is to speak to their GP about getting a needs assessment.

Care Homes


Whether privately owned or run by a charity or local council, a care home is a place of residence for older people who require extra support and personal care. They are also sometimes referred to as residential homes.

They also provide nursing care in addition to assistance with washing, eating, taking medication and other everyday tasks. There are also specialist care homes that offer nursing care for specific conditions, like dementia.

A care home will be secure and have a team of workers on site 24 hours a day, and there are plenty of other residents for your older relative to socialise with. Care homes often have communal lounges and activities to keep residents occupied.

You relative has the right to choose their own care home, even if they’re not paying for care privately. However, social services must approve the chosen home as well if care is being funded by the local authority. This funding is means tested and can cover, or contribute to, your costs if you can’t afford the fees outright.

Every care home is assessed and regulated by the Care Quality Commission.  You can check out local care homes, read the reports about them which may help you decide.  It is highly recommended that you visit a number of care homes, and we have more information in our section on care homes.

Sheltered Housing


These rented homes have a manger or warden on site during working hours to assist the residents and meet the needs set out in their personal ‘support plan’. Residents can also receive a daily phone call from the manager to check-in on them and their welfare. However, the scheme managers do not provide nursing or social care.

Sheltered housing blocks have around the clock alarm systems in place, so residents can contact staff in the case of an emergency. This gives an older person benefits of living independently but the reassurance of knowing help is there is required.

When living in sheltered housing residents have their own home – not sharing with other residents – but there might be communal areas where residents can socialise and has a warm community atmosphere. Each home is typically unfurnished, so an older person can bring any home comforts with them and truly make the place their own.

You can find out more information about sheltered housing on Age UK’s website, here.

Assisted Living/Extra-Care Housing


As individual apartments in specialist complexes, assisted living or extra-care housing offers more support than in sheltered housing but are still able to live independently. Its particularly well suited to people with mobility issues or memory loss.

The care offered includes help around the home as well as more complex health provisions; different assisted living providers offer different levels of care.

Meals are often provided for residents and personal care services are available 24/7. This can be a great reassurance if you don’t live close to your relative and aren’t able to check on them regularly.

There is also the option to rent or buy your property, though there may be additional service and maintenance charges. The costs are lower on average than a care home and might be available from your local council if you pass a needs assessment.

More information about assisted living can be found on the UK Care Guide website, here.

Retirement Housing


Retirement homes are housing developments designed specifically for older people to buy, but they are increasingly available for rent too. They are good options for older people who have minimal additional care needs but who are looking to downsize to a smaller, more elderly friendly home.

A residential development will be made up of small homes, all inhabited by older people which can be great for their social lives.

Different retirement homes offer varying levels of extra services, like maintenance and emergency alarms. The managers of the schemes are responsible for the upkeep of the communal areas, like the gardens, but residents are accountable for the upkeep of their individual properties.

Before selecting a retirement home, it is advisable to check if they belong to the Association of Retirement Housing Managers who aim to maintain high quality services.

Retirement villages are also an option, purpose-built village style communities, but there is only one of these in Sussex, Charters Village in East Grinstead.

Age UK have put together a detailed leaflet on Retirement Housing, providing further information, which you can read here.

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