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Thinking through your care options

The most important decision to make when considering your care needs is whether you can stay in your own home or need to move into a care home.

The decision will be based on what you want and what care you need. But you’ll also need to consider how much it will cost.

Our needs change as we get older, and aspects of living independently become more difficult. For example, getting up and down stairs or in and out of the bath.

The sooner you consider what will work, the better. This can help avoid rushing into a choice that’s not right for you – particularly in a time of crisis, such as following a stay in hospital.

Here are some useful questions to help you prioritise your needs. Writing it down can be helpful:

  1. What does ‘home’ mean to you? For example, is it comfort, security, familiarity?

  2. What makes a good home in later life? For example, proximity to family or your GP.

  3. What things might become more difficult? For example, getting into and out of the bath, steep stairs or a large garden.

Comparing the cost of care

Costs can vary around the country. But your local social services department (or Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland) will be able to give you an idea of how much you’ll need to pay for services you arrange through them.

Charities and disability groups are a good source of information too, but if you’re thinking of using a private home care agency or care home, you might need to make your own enquiries.

Home care costs

Costs are very different depending whether you need support during the day or at night, on weekdays or at weekends.

It’s tricky to work out what you’ll pay in advance but contacting some local providers can help you get more realistic costs.

We’ve provided a few estimates to get you started.

  • £15,000 a year, for 14 hours of care a week. Based on the UK Homecare Association’s estimate of what councils should pay, as a minimum it’s £20.69 an hour. If you’re self-funding, you might pay more.

  • If you need full-time care during the day, costs could be more than double the above.

  • If you need carers to move in around the clock and you have complex needs, it could cost about £83,200 a year. In those circumstances, residential care is usually more cost-effective. If you don’t have complex needs, fees should be less – about £41,000-£65,000 a year.

You’ll still have the cost of maintaining your house, but you have the advantage of being in familiar surroundings.

If you and your partner both need care, home care might be more cost-effective. Some home care providers only charge a supplement to cover the second person, rather than doubling the cost of care for one person.

If you live in England, you can get an estimate of home care costs in your area by using the Cost of care calculator on the Which? website

Care home costs

According to Laing & Buisson care for Older People UK Market Report 2020, the average annual UK care home fees in 2019-20 were:

  • Residential (Frail older) -£34,686

  • Residential (Dementia) – £35,464

  • Nursing (Frail older) – £48,048

  • Nursing (Dementia) – £49,712

Remember, you might have to pay extra for things like trips out, hairdressing and some therapies – check what’s included in the care home fees. The cost will be affected by the location, quality and service offered, too.


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