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Things to consider when choosing care

Chris Torney / 26 April 2016 ( 19 June 2019 )

If you start to need some assistance with your day-to-day life, what are your options?

When considering care, it's important to anticipate how your needs will change in the future
When considering care, it's important to anticipate how your needs will change in the future

When we get older, many of us will need some form of assistance in our day-to-day lives. In such circumstances, it may be necessary either to have care workers make regular visits to your home to help with the likes of cooking, washing and shopping, or to move out into more suitable accommodation.

This could be a residential care home or, if your care needs are less pressing, a dedicated retirement village.

So how do you choose which option is right for you, and what other factors do you need to take into consideration?

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Staying in your home

It is understandable that you may want to carry on living in your current property, with its home comforts and proximity to friends and relatives.

If, however, you find you are needing help with your daily routine, get in touch with your local authority’s social services department and ask for a care assessment to be carried out.

This will show what assistance you require and set out how much, if anything, you will be required to pay for help.

Alternatively, you can seek and pay for care workers from private agencies of your own choosing. 

These agencies should be registered with the Care Quality Commission. If you are considering using a provider, check its credentials and recent reports on the commission’s website.

Paul Lewis on paying for care

Moving into a residential care home

Following your local council’s care assessment, it may be decided that your needs are such that you should move into a residential or nursing care home. Again, officials will usually carry out a means test in order to decide the extent to which you should contribute to your care-home fees.

Your local authority is responsible for covering nursing care, that is, care which relates to specific health problems. But individuals are responsible for paying for “social care”, subject to a means test.

If no one else is living in your home, you may be required to sell it to provide funds to cover future care-home bills.

Can you avoid care home fees?

Your care-home checklist

So how do you go about selecting the right residential care home? Your choice may be limited depending on what health conditions you have, or how severe your needs are. Some homes, for example, specialise in treating those with dementia.


It could make sense to choose a care home near family members if they live elsewhere in the country to where your current home is. Alternatively, you may wish to remain in your local area.

What amenities are on offer?

Before choosing a home, it is worth visiting to see what it is like – stay for a meal, and speak to the residents to get their views. Are your hobbies and interests catered for?

What care is available?

Does the home meet your needs in terms of the care it offers? Find out also the extent to which you will be able to retain your independence.

Check official reports

The Care Quality Commission also carries out regular checks on the country’s care homes, so check the most recent reports on the commission’s website.

What are the costs?

Not just for ongoing care but for extras such as hairdressing or day trips?

A closer look at the differences between residential home care and nursing homes.

Retirement villages: another option

A retirement village may be a good halfway house between getting help at home and moving full-time into residential care. 

Retirement villages are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, having already been well established in the likes of the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

These are often new developments of apartments aimed at those in later life who want to carry on owning their own home and maintain a sense of independence, but who may now or in future need some assistance with their daily routine.

Retirement villages have a wide range of on-site amenities and services, from shops and restaurants to swimming pools and communal gardens. But residents also typically have round-the-clock access to whatever level of care services they need.

Retirement village living revealed.

Retirement village checklist

If you are considering moving into a retirement village, it is worth thinking about these factors:

Is it located close to family and friends? 

Bear in mind, though, that unlike a residential care home, you will usually be able to have visitors to stay with you in a retirement village, depending on the size of your apartment.

What is the atmosphere of the village like? 

Visit and talk to residents to get some feel for the community.

Are the facilities right for you? 

Some villages will have the likes of spas and swimming pools. Equally, are your hobbies catered for by the social groups currently on offer? Don’t forget, though, that you can set up your own groups once you have moved in.

If any amenities are not available on site, for example a library, are they easily accessible in the local area?

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What care services are available? 

Are they on offer round the clock – and what do they cost?

What are the properties like? 

Can you choose décor and the likes of appliances and white goods? Is there enough space for the furniture and other possessions you would like to bring? Do you have a car parking space?

What fees do you have to pay? 

Most retirement villages impose regular service charges to cover the upkeep of buildings and grounds, as well as the cost of providing other amenities. Are there any limits on future service charge increases? And does your village impose an exit charge when your property is sold? Also find out about expected utility charges and council tax rates.

For further information about retirement living and how to find your perfect home, download and read our complete guide to Retirement Living and Villages.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.