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Assisted living in the UK 

Im sure you will agree that when it comes to finding out about Assisted Living, it can get very confusing!exclamation-compressor

In this guide we will give you all the information you need to find out if Assisted Living is right for you or your loved one.

On this page, we will explain:

  • What Assisted Living is and how it works
  • 15 questions you should ask yourself when looking at Assisted Living
  • 6 top tips on choosing an Assisted Living facility
  • what the costs could be
  • alternative options you could consider

Question 1 – What is Assisted Living in the UK?

There once were only a small number of limited options available to anybody needing or considering care in later life. Yet recently a rapidly ageing population here in the UK has led to a number of innovative new solutions which have been developed to suit different types of care needs and individuals.

With so many care options now available, it can be confusing and difficult to choose the type of care which best suits your needs and personal preferences. At UK Care Guide we understand that any decision affecting your independence and lifestyle can be daunting, which is why we’ve compiled our helpful guides to different types of care.

In this section we discuss assisted living, and offer advice and guidance to help you determine whether assisted living might be suitable for you.

2 – How does Assisted Living work?

Assisted living is a type of residential care which involves an individual (or a couple) living independently in a specialist complex (often known as Assisted Living Facilities, or ALF).

The facilities in which the individual lives differ in terms of what they offer, but usually they provide nurses and care staff onsite to attend to individuals with care needs at any given time.

As an individual you will choose how much or little you participate in optional activities, and you’ll also have access to care on-site.

3 – What help would you get at an Assisted Living facility?

Care offered at assisted living facilities can range between help with basic everyday tasks (like cleaning and shopping) and more advanced care (personal care, medical attention) and caters for a variety of needs and requirements. What is on offer can vary between assisted living providers.

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You’ll normally have 24 hour on call assistance and fitted alarms in each property, which can offer peace of mind for those who are infirm or have mobility issues. Care can be administered on a regular basis or one-off, as much or as little as you would like.

4 – Who would benefit from an Assisted Living facility?

Assisted living facilities are usually more appropriate for those with low-level care needs (which may or may not deteriorate), such as mobility issues or memory loss.

The best thing to do if you feel you may need care provision now (or in the near future) is to speak to your GP or social worker, or a consultant if you have on-going medical needs. They may arrange a care needs assessment, which determines exactly which type of care you need and which will be best for you.

You can then use this along with your personal preference to choose whether assisted living care (or a different type of care altogether) is suitable for you.

However despite this, lots of people choose to enter into assisted living facilities at an early stage, when they do not require additional care. This is because they feel comfortable being in a safe environment with the appropriate facilities, should they feel they need additional care provision in the future.

5 – Where can i find an assisted living facility?

We have a database of thousands of UK care homes.  You can search our care home database and contact homes that appeal to you to find out if they offer assisted living.

6 – What are the different types of Assisted Living facilities?

Some assisted living facilities are comprised of self-contained apartments, whilst others feature small houses or bungalows. These are safe, secure compounds which are often only accessible to residents and staff.

Some larger complexes have hairdressers, shops, cafes and leisure facilities on site. Often there are gardens or outside areas you can enjoy – and some properties even have personal gardens so that you can continue to tend to your own space.

5a – Will I own my own property?

As an individual you usually have the opportunity own or rent your property independently. Other options like shared ownership or lease schemes are sometimes available. There may be a service and maintenance charge and additional costs for care on top of your initial outlay, or built into your rent or mortgage as appropriate.

This is the main advantage of choosing assisted living over residential care, as overall the costs are lower when compared to residential or nursing care.

assisted living

6 – Tips on how to choose an assisted living provider?

There are many assisted living providers to choose from – so deciding which is best for you can be a daunting task. It’s best to adopt a targeted approach, considering several key factors before making a shortlist of the providers who you feel best suit you.

Tip 1. Identify your preferred location

The first thing to do is narrow down your choices by location. If you’d like to stay close to family and friends, you’ll need to search for an assisted care facility in your local area – or perhaps if you’d like to move closer to relatives you’ll need to search the area in which they currently live.

Tip 2. Decide what facilities you need

Some key questions you need to consider, from a facilities perspective, if you are thinking about moving in to assisted living include:

  • What facilities does this assisted living provider offer?
  • Is a fitness centre important to you?
  • Do you want to do your shopping within the complex?

From company to company the above can differ – and some may also be subject to tiered packages incurring separate costs. Certain mainstream providers will provide the same offering across the board.

Tip 3. Think about what help may you need in the future?

Is there room for manoeuvre in this assisted living facility should your care needs change? It’s best to choose somewhere you’ll be able to stay should your circumstances not remain the same. If you know your health or condition may deteriorate, consider options which allow flexibility for the future.

Tip 4. Work out what the Assisted Living facility will cost you?

Cost will of course be a factor when you choose a care provider. You should be able to obtain quotes from facilities based on your independent circumstances.  We strongly recommend that you consider all options available to you when it comes to paying for your care.  So many people pay more than they need to

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Tip 5. Read some reviews of Assisted Living providers

Before making your shortlist, it’s a good idea to check comments made by those already using the company in question. This way you can ensure that you are getting the high quality service they promote.

Tip 6. Find out if there are there any rooms available?

Some assisted living homes unfortunately get booked up quickly. Occupancy rates vary and naturally people come and go if they need to move to a nursing home or unfortunately pass away – but generally occupants stay for life.

Check availability before anything else – as you could be disappointed if you find your shortlisted facilities are all full and have long waiting lists.

Once you’ve made your shortlist, you should then arrange visits to each facility you’ve chosen. You should try to turn up on spec, as this way you won’t be shown a ‘false’ impression of the environment you’ll be living in. Bear in mind that you may need to book to view a property within the facility.

7 – What does Assisted Living cost?

Assisted Living costs can vary greatly depending on the factors outlined in the section above and where you live in the UK.  The more facilities that the home has the more the cost.  The costs will typically range from £500 to £1,000 per week. As a comparator, you can compare the costs using our residential care cost calculator.

When you are researching his option, we recommend you contact some providers and ask them to clarify their assisted living costs and to confirm what it would cost over a range of different durations of time.

We would also recommend that you ask a full breakdown of the services that you will receive for the costs that you will be paying.

7a – How can I pay for assisted living?

Paying for an assisted living home is a little different when compared with residential or nursing care.

If you move into assisted living you can use your PIP (Personal Independence Payment) or Attendance Allowance (if you are over 65) towards the monthly cost of maintenance and care. However if you are moving into assisted living you’ll need to pay for the initial outlay (usually the purchase of your property) yourself.

This is something the government does not subsidise – this unfortunately means that it is not normally a viable option for those with low incomes and few assets or funds.

However it may be possible for you to sell your existing home and purchase an assisted living property with plenty of cash to spare. You could then invest this in another property or into a savings account to help towards the cost of future care.

For more information on the paying care fees, please read our section on the different way that you can pay your care costs.

You will find details of the 6 main ways in which you can typically meet your care fees as well as details of the advantages and disadvantage of each option.  Getting this is right is really important, so we do strongly recommend that you read this.

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7b – Am I eligible for any benefits which can help towards the costs?

You can use certain benefits (like Attendance Allowance) towards the cost of assisted living, as well as any pension funds you may have.

To find out whether you’re eligible for benefits, it’s best to visit your local Age UK centre or Citizens Advice Bureau, where somebody can help you to determine your current situation and can identify which benefits you’re entitled to.

They can also help you to fill out an application form. Your GP or another medical professional may need to carry out a care needs assessment or other kind of assessment to determine which benefits you can claim, and how much you will receive.

You can also find details of benefits available here on the UK Care Guide website and on the gov.uk website.

8 – How is assisted living different from residential or nursing care?

Assisted living care promotes a slightly different ethos compared with traditional residential or nursing care. The idea behind assisted living is for the individual to maintain independence and live independently or with a partner as they have done previously.

Individuals in assisted living often directly own or rent the property they live in, which is of course less expensive compared with comprehensive residential care.

Here is a short video discussing the differences between assisted living and a nursing home.

The comparison chart below should give some idea of the differences between assisted living and residential or nursing care:

Residential Care

Assisted Living

  • Living in a room with communal leisure space
  • Living in your own property with private and communal leisure space
  • Food provided
  • You can choose to have food provided or purchase and cook your own
  • You may need permission to leave – or need to let staff know where you are going
  • You can come and go as you please
  • You are effectively ‘renting’ a room, with food and care costs added on top
  • You own your property within the complex and can pay for additional care if you need it
  • You will normally be living alone in your room
  • You can live together with your partner in your property
  • A range of acute care needs are catered for
  • Severe care needs are not catered for
  • Your care can be subsidised by the government (means tested and within guidelines)
  • You will need to pay outright for your placement, but you can use benefits or your pension towards on-going care costs

 

The main differences with residential care and assisted living facilities concern freedom and independence. Assisted living is more like staying in your own home, yet with the added peace of mind of on-going professional support and security.

9 – Are assisted living homes the same as sheltered accommodation?

In lots of ways assisted living homes similar to the type of provision offered in sheltered accommodation. Yet assisted living is a more modern take on sheltered accommodation and often assisted living facilities are more contemporary and up-to-date. Additionally they’re usually larger than older sheltered accommodation units.

10 – Can I opt for an assisted living home if I need nursing care?

Your eligibility for assisted living homes will depend on the severity of your care needs. Although assisted living facilities do provide medical and nursing assistance, it is usually only appropriate for those with lower-level care needs. The philosophy of assisted living is independence, and residents are usually free to come and go.

Nursing care usually involves a lot of time spent inside with medical attention and attendance, so most assisted living facilities are unequipped to take on individuals with intensive care needs.

11 – Is assisted living care better than home care? 

Many people who are looking at assisted living or home care as options, struggle to choose between the two – as both have particular benefits. Which you choose will come down to personal preference, financial status and future prognosis.

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1. What is your personal preference

Some key questions you need to consider, from a personal perspective, if you are thinking about moving in to an assisted living home, include: 

  • Would you like to live with other people of a similar age group?
  • Would you like to take part in activities with others?
  • Is security and feeling safe in your home important to you?
  • Do you feel isolated and would like to get social?
  • Is general mobility an issue (perhaps you don’t drive), which means your independence is compromised where you live now?
  • Does your partner need more intensive care needs than you – would you prefer to stay together?
  • Alternatively, would you prefer to reside in your own home?
  • Do you have friends and family nearby?

2. What is your financial status

Some key questions you need to consider, from a financial perspective, if you are thinking about moving in to an assisted living home, include:

  • Would you rather sell up and have money left over to contribute to your pension?
  • Is assisted living a more financially viable option when compared with residential care or home care?
  • Alternatively, is the prospect of assisted living too costly for you long-term?

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3. What is the future prognosis for your health?

Some key questions you need to consider, from what the future holds perspective, if you are thinking about moving in to assisted living home, include:

  • Is your health (or your partner’s health) likely to deteriorate in coming years?
  • Is it best to settle in an appropriate environment early on rather than waiting until care is required?
  • Alternatively do you feel you’ll be able to live at home for a long time?

Taking into account the above questions should help you to form a clearer picture of your current situation and prospective future needs. You can then choose whether to opt for home care or assisted living. It’s worth noting that you can choose home care in the interim whilst you make a decision on which assisted living Facilities to choose, or whether to move into assisted living at all.

12 – Is there a difference between assisted living facilities?

There is only one type of assisted living – but all providers differ in their offering. Of course the location and environmental surroundings of assisted living facilities are different.

Some providers allow you to ‘pay as you go’. In this situation you move to an assisted living facility and purchase your property and pay the basic fee for maintenance and additional services. You then pay or apply for additional care as it is needed – so you don’t waste money by paying for a full package early on.

13 – Where can I find assisted living homes?

You can find a list of assisted living providers on the internet – but often this can be confusing and time-consuming. Using a local directory or a dedicated website, such as here which lists only the most relevant results to you cuts down on time and ensures you’re more likely to find an assisted living facility which is right for you.  You can find some assisted living facilities in our residential care home search section.

It’s also worth asking for personal recommendations from people you know. This ensures that you’re getting a personal perspective or word-of-mouth recommendation – both are much more valuable than advertising.

assisted living uk

14 – What alternative options should you consider?

There are alternatives to assisted living, but they are quite different. The closest alternative (which still allows you to remain independent) is home care, or traditional sheltered accommodation.

Aside from the above some providers also offer ‘Supported Housing’ schemes.

In these situations individuals or couples live independently in their own room or small flat. Unlike residential care you are free to come and go as you please and you’re normally situated near local amenities such as shops.

Carers will work with you as needed and you’ll also have access to 24 hour assistance. However it’s important to note that unlike assisted living you won’t have access to facilities on-site and accommodation may be smaller.

Again, which you choose comes down to your situation, personal preference and any financial constraints placed upon you. If you don’t feel that assisted living is for you but are confused as to which other option may be more appropriate for you, speak to your GP or social worker, visit your local Age UK centre or take a look at our related articles on different types of care here.

15 – How can I find out more about assisted living?

If you’d like to find out more about assisted living, you can find more on charity Age UK’s website.

What else do you need to know?

As you consider your care options, we would recommend that you read and have a look at the topics below.


How to pay for your assisted living costs

There are a number of options when it comes to paying for your assisted living costs.  Our guide sets out the options to paying for care.

Find an assisted living provider

Use our search facility to look for care homes that may offer assisted living facilities.

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