What is the Difference Between a Residential Care Home and a Nursing Home?


Despite the fact that they are often used interchangeably, ‘residential care homes’ and ‘nursing homes’ are two separate concepts offering different levels and types of care.

A residential care home is where you or your loved one might go if you are not able to safely live in your house anymore, due to physical infirmity, reduced independence or other reasons such as the onset of dementia. Staff in a residential care home provide you with 24/7 personal care, including regular meals, a variety of activities and any prescribed regular medication. There is a strong focus on preserving the independence of the residents as much as possible, and each resident is encouraged to play an active part in their own care plans. The aim is to provide the resident with an alternative home and the emphasis is upon making the residential care home as homely, as comfortable and as familiar as possible.

A nursing home is for individuals who may have complex medical conditions and situations, require medical and nursing care and who do not have the capacity to look after themselves and / or meet their medical needs anymore, but do not need to be hospitalised;  this may be due to diseases such as Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, late-stage Parkinson’s disease, strokes, cancer, or to having a colostomy or a feeding tube; in such cases, these individuals are better able to be cared for in a nursing home.   Staff in nursing homes consist of registered nurses available day and night alongside care staff and they are trained to administer acute medical treatment as and when required and will most likely have specialist equipment already at hand;  the priority in a nursing home is to ensure that unwell residents are safe and receiving their vital treatment, medications and care as required.

In some cases, a care provider may offer both nursing care and residential care on the same premises, sometimes with more emphasis on one or the other.  Depending on the physical and mental health of you or your loved one, you might want one which focuses just on one type of care – ie residential or nursing only – or one which offers both. The latter could prove particularly useful if the health condition of an individual is likely to progress and get degenerative (get worse), since in a joint facility, the resident would be able to stay put and would not need to go through the stress of physically upping and moving out of a care home environment into a nursing environment.

For individuals searching specifically for a dementia care home, dementia care can be provided by either of the 2 types of care facility – ie residential or nursing – and the choice would depend very much on the level of needs of the person with dementia.

Paxton Hall is a private residential care home, offering long-term, short-term and respite care, along with intermediate care (between hospital discharge and a safe return home). It also provides dementia care following an assessment of the level of needs of a potential resident presenting with dementia.

Paxton Hall Care Home is located in Little Paxton, which makes it ideal for anyone looking for residential care homes in Cambridgeshire. We aim to create a homely and comfortable environment where individuals are treated with respect and dignity by our highly-trained and empathetic staff while living the fullest and most independent life they can.