Nursing home vs. hospice: What’s the difference?

Whether your loved one’s health has been in decline for some time, or they’ve taken a recent, sharp turn for the worse, or you need some respite from caring, the decision to choose residential care is never an easy one. 

If you think now is the time for a nursing home or a hospice, it’s vital that you understand the key differences between the two options, and select the one that’s right for your loved one. 

In this article, we explain those differences and outline the things you need to consider when choosing between a nursing home and hospice care. 

Nursing home vs. hospice care

What is a Nursing Home?

Typically, nursing home residents arrive after spending time in assisted living or extra-care housing, or after having been cared for at home by carers or a partner or family member. 

Often, the decision to move to a nursing home follows an accident or a fall at home, highlighting the risk of the person living alone. And sometimes caring for a loved one at home can become too difficult — both physically and emotionally — for the carer. 

While the decision to choose a nursing home is often related to health concerns, nursing home residents do not tend to be in the terminal stages of an illness or condition. Instead, the focus is on the quality and frequency of care. 

Nursing home carers provide help with daily living activities, such as bathing, dressing, toileting and continence care, mealtimes, and moving around. This care is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

It’s important to note that a nursing home is different from a care home. Nursing homes have trained nurses on duty to handle the nursing and medical requirements of its residents.  

Nursing homes can offer both long-stay and respite care (short-stay) for residents. No matter how long your loved one is in the nursing home, you can have peace of mind that they’re well looked after. And, thanks to a programme of activities, they’re able to socialise far more than they would at home.

What is Hospice Care?

At its core, hospice care is designed to ease your loved one’s pain and suffering as they enter their final months, weeks, or days. The focus is very much on pain relief, making sure they are comfortable and able to maintain their dignity in the face of such a difficult situation. 

Hospice care is administered with compassion and expertise, offering support to both the patient and their family members. 

When you hear the word “hospice” you might immediately think of it as a place someone goes to die, but that isn’t strictly true. While palliative care isn’t about curing an illness or disease, hospice services are available at any point from when someone receives a terminal diagnosis.

Hospices are run by a team of trained professionals. This includes carers and nurses, specialist hospice nurses and doctors, social workers, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, complementary therapists and chaplaincy services. Together, they offer medical, social, practical, emotional and spiritual support, and also provide care for family and friends. 

Finally, hospice care is free. You don’t have to worry about the cost of hospice care. And the end of life care can occur wherever a person lives; at home, in a nursing home, or in an assisted living facility. Alternatively, your loved one can be admitted to a hospice hospital to receive 24/7 palliative care, but this will often come down to the availability of rooms and their prognosis. 

Can my loved one receive hospice care in a nursing home vs. hospice?

Yes. At Fulford, we specialise in end of life care and are, in effect, a hospice for some of our residents with terminal conditions. We train with our local hospice and can provide the same level of professional palliative care as a hospice hospital. 

While a hospice most certainly isn’t a nursing home, a nursing home can act as a hospice. 

Things to consider when choosing a nursing home vs. hospice

  • The level of care: The difference in choice between a nursing home and a hospice will primarily come down to the health of your loved one and the level of care they require. If they aren’t facing a terminal diagnosis, but they do require a standard of care you can no longer provide, then a nursing home will be able to help. 
  • The diagnosis: If your loved one has been given a terminal diagnosis, it’s important that you arrange hospice care as soon as possible. And if you are unable to care for them at home, you must ensure they have access to specialist hospice care. This can be in a hospice facility or a nursing home — many people come to nursing homes for end of life care.

    Unfortunately, people tend to delay hospice care as they find it hard to face the reality of their diagnosis. However, the sooner someone receives palliative care, the better. Their final months, weeks and days will be made far more comfortable as a result.
  • The importance of familiar surroundings vs feasibility: When discussing the end of life care with your loved one, you should seek to establish their wishes. Would they be more comfortable at home in familiar surroundings?

    Many people do wish to stay at home and receive hospice care, but this isn’t always possible depending on their circumstances. Issues with access or the toilet on a different level to the bedroom, for example, could throw up obstacles to care. and these would be easily overcome by moving into a nursing home or assisted living facility.

    It’s a difficult conversation to have, but ultimately it’s an important one.
  • Your own abilities as a carer: Another tough question to ask is of yourself. Are you physically able to provide care at home? You might be reaching an age where your own health isn’t what it used to be, and so acting as a carer to your loved one could be causing more stress than you’d like. It’s also important to enjoy your time together, and so delegating care to trained professionals allows you the chance to simply be there for your loved one emotionally during their time of need.
  • Funding: When your loved one is assessed for care, funding is considered and, at the point of nearing the end of their life, it can and often is paid by the health service. When they’re admitted to the nursing home, it in effect becomes their home, so there’s no need for them to leave again in order to receive specialist hospice care.

    Our dedicated and compassionate professionals work together to make sure your loved one is made comfortable, and that their wishes are fulfilled.

Would you like to talk?

We understand that moving into a home can be a difficult process for everyone involved. That’s why at Fulford Nursing Home, we work with each resident and their loved ones to create a personalised care plan, from the little quirks to the important necessities. 

If you’d like to talk with one of our friendly staff members, please contact us on 01904 654 269. We’re ready to listen and happy to help.