Why are care homes so expensive?

Paying for the care of yourself or a loved one can be a challenge. Researching your options and what it might cost based on your individual needs can result in a case of information overload. There are thousands of articles explaining the ins and outs of what to expect when evaluating elderly care options and whilst it’s vital to choose an affordable solution, it’s important not to overlook whether a care home makes you feel at home.


Over the coming months we will be launching a series of twelve articles, which we hope will help prospective and new users understand later living care, from types of care home and moving in, to funding benefits and legal advice. The first in this series looks at why care costs so much.


Care is expensive. There’s no point sugar coating that fact. The reason care is associated with big bills comes down to three main factors – time, quality, and location.




The main reason care home fees are so high is that they provide specialist care, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This means that a resident is living full time in a home and not just paying for care, but the equivalent of rent and household bills as well.


Another way to look at it can be to consider other areas of care. Infant care and specifically nurseries also have a stigma for being costly and a challenge for some families to afford.


The average cost for a full-time nursery place in the UK is £1150 a month for full-time care at 50 hours a week, making the cost per hour of care £5.30.


The average cost to stay in a residential home in the UK is £3050 a month for full-time care at 168 hours a week, which makes the cost per hour of care £4.20.


The amount of care required of course varies between the two settings. Although care in a residential home is provided 24 hours a day, most residents will sleep overnight, so fewer carers may be required to ensure care needs are met.


There are also hard-set rules in infant care stipulating a 1:3 ratio of carer to children under the age of two, and a 1:4 ratio for children under the age of four. In elderly care, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) guidelines are vague by contrast, stating that the number of staff must be “adequate to meet the needs of the residents”.




It is up to each individual care home to decide how many staff they need to provide the right level of care for their residents. Some groups use dependency tools and calculators to determine this, others use senior staff to manage the number of carers more organically. At Hartford Care we employ a flexible approach and look at the number of hours needed to meet the required level of care and then split this across a mix of full-time and part-time staff.


There is a distinct difference between residential homes and nursing homes. Nursing homes deliver specialist care via on-staff nurses who are trained to give medical care to patients who require it. The average monthly cost of nursing homes in the UK is £3850 a month, making the cost per hour of care £5.30. Later in this series we will be publishing an article looking at the various types of care homes and how they differ, so watch this space.


Dementia care is also a factor in the quality of care. Residents with dementia aren’t limited to nursing homes, so provided the appropriate training and consideration is in place, they can live in residential or nursing homes. For logistical ease, many homes do have floors or areas dedicated to residents with dementia to ensure safeguarding, with extra specialist care where required.


Ultimately, how much care a resident requires can be broken down into the following categories: medical care, toileting, eating, changing positions, moving and handling, bathing, dressing, cleaning, laundry, incontinence, co-operation, aggression, risk to themselves/ others, and frequency of immediate intervention. How much care is required, both physically and mentally, determines how many hours are needed to adequately achieve an appropriate level of care. However, quality care is about exceeding the bare minimum and going above and beyond to give residents the best life possible.


At Hartford Care, our ethos is to always deliver exceptional care, providing enrichment activities, extensive menus, thoughtfully decorated homes, comfortable rooms and communal areas, a warm welcome to all visitors, and more, across all our properties. Our staff work incredibly hard to deliver a home-from-home atmosphere, helping residents to feel safe and happy.


Other factors in the quality of a care home come in the form of facilities and location. A luxury care home with exquisite designer furnishings is going to be more expensive than a basic facility. Similarly, if a resident’s room has an ocean view from a penthouse suite, this is likely to be worth more than a standard room overlooking the car park.




As with any goods or service, care in and around London and other densely populated areas will cost more than care in the Northwest and more sparsely populated areas. Less population results in fewer high-paid jobs, which equals less disposable income and subsequently lower costs for goods and services. A higher population leads to more high-paid jobs and therefore more disposable income but also higher overheads and higher costs. The service of elderly care can roughly be broken down as care (medical or other), rent and bills, and meals. Again, all these factors will vary in cost depending on the location within the UK, and they are all impacted by the same cost of living issues currently faced by everyone, though that is a whole other kettle of fish which we will look at another day.


At Hartford Care our 16 care homes are located around the south of England in some of the most affluent towns and counties. Across our range of residential and nursing care homes the average monthly fee is £4900, making the cost per hour of care £6.70. Again, when compared with infant care this is an expected increase. According to Babycentre.co.uk nursery prices rise by 33% in more expensive areas, with fees around £1550 a month for 50 hours, making the cost per hour of care £7.20.


About Hartford Care


We are a mid-size and mid-level group of care homes in terms of luxury. We frequently reinvest and refurbish our homes on a cyclical basis to maximise comfort and available amenities. We have teams led by senior directors dedicated to the quality of care and the quality of life in our homes. We also aim to provide a surplus of hours amongst our carers to ensure the needs of our residents are met.


Our homes vary in size and style, from grandiose stately buildings oozing character, to purpose built modern homes specifically designed with residents’ needs and comfort in mind. Our variety in design ensures individual preferences can be met across our portfolio.


These efforts are all underpinned by our core company values – care, comfort and companionship. We know that the areas we operate in are costly and competitive, some luxury homes have truly staggering fees. We prefer to invest in our staff and strategy to really care for and look after our residents, enabling them to genuinely enjoy life at our homes. This for us is vital and at the heart of all we do.


The next article in this series looks at the financial benefits and support available to help with the cost of care.

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