As the population ages, more of us are faced with the prospect of moving either ourselves or an older family member into a nursing or convalescent home. It may be a decision that arrives suddenly following hospitalization, or gradually as needs become more difficult to meet in other types of housing. Deciding to move can be stressful, often due to misconceptions about these facilities. To make a decision that’s right for you or a loved one, it’s important to learn all you can about nursing homes.

Preparing for long term care

People usually move into care because of failing health and increased dependency. If you are unsure of your needs then speak to your doctor who will advise you. It should be possible for you to visit the home and, ideally, stay a few days.

If you, your relatives, or friends can pay the home’s fees in full then you can make your own arrangements to go into any residential care or nursing home. Contact Social Services if you need help to pay the fees. You will still have the right to choose any home you like, as long as four key points are satisfied.

  1. You have been assessed as needing residential or nursing home care and the preferred accommodation is suitable in relation to your needs.
  2. There is a place available.
  3. The home can provide that care at a price the authority would usually expect to pay or you are able to arrange a “top up”, perhaps from a relative or friend.
  4. The home is willing to provide accommodation subject to the authority’s usual terms and conditions.

You can move from one home to another and have exactly the same rights to choose the new home as you did the first one.
People unable to make their own choices
If the prospective resident is unable to express a preference for themselves the authorities must act on the preferences expressed by their carers in the same way that they would on the resident’s own wishes, unless that would be against the best interest of the resident.
Challenging decisions
Your right to choose is written into law. If you believe your right to choose is being infringed you should quote LAC (92)27 to the authority.
Paying for care
If you move into a residential care or nursing home with financial support from Social Services then they will make arrangements to pay the fees. Your contribution to the fees will take into account your own income and capital.
Independent organisations such as Citizens Advice Bureau and Age Concern are happy to provide further guidance on the current rules and your rights.


  • Are run by councils, charities, housing associations or private individuals
  • Provide accommodation, meals and personal care for the elderly


Are mostly privately owned; some are run by councils and charitable organisations

  • Care is provided by qualified nursing staff 24 hours a day
  • They cater for patients with special needs such as those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or incontinence problems


  • Are registered with the local social services department
  • Have their facilities and standards checked regularly
  • Will welcome you to visit them to have a good look round before you make your final choice. Choosing the right home could make all the difference.