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Choosing where to be cared for

As your illness progresses, so will your needs. You may need to choose where you'd like to be cared for. To help you make the best decision, here's some information about the main care settings.

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Care at home

Many people prefer to be cared for at home, surrounded by family and friends.

If you wish to remain at home, speak to your GP about what can be arranged. This is likely to include a district or community nurse, who will organise and coordinate your home care. Your GP may also arrange for specialist palliative care professionals to support you in your home.

You can contact your local social services department   (social work department in Scotland  , health and social care trust in Northern Ireland  ) to request an assessment for yourself and the person looking after you. A family member, your GP or district nurse can also contact social services on your behalf.

These assessments will help to determine the services, aids and adaptations that will best support you to remain at home.

Caring for someone at home can be stressful and cause some changes in your and the family’s routines. Ask your GP or district nurse about organisations that can help the person who’s caring for you. These include Carers Direct   (England only), Carers UK  Carers Trust   and Crossroads Caring for Carers   (Northern Ireland only).

At home you can eat what you want, when you want. You can have the cat on the bed and the dog on the floor. You can have neighbours and visitors who just pop in for a few minutes. 
Hope, Marie Curie Nurse

Hospice care

Hospices are smaller and have a different atmosphere to hospitals, making them feel more like someone’s home. They provide free, tailored care that’s suited to an individual’s needs. They are usually run by a team of doctors, nurses, social workers, counsellors and trained volunteers.

You may think that people only go to a hospice to die, but this isn’t true. A hospice can provide you with care – often from the time you’re diagnosed – to improve your quality of life throughout your illness.

This may involve support to meet your medical, emotional, social, practical, psychological or spiritual needs. The needs of your family and carers will also be assessed.

Depending on your situation, you may become an inpatient at a hospice for a period of time and then return home. Alternatively, some hospices will allow you to become a day patient. This gives you access to more support services than if you’d stayed at home.

If you’re unsure whether hospice care is right for you, or you want to find out more about what hospice services are available in your area, speak to your GP or district nurse. There are Marie Curie Hospices around the country, or Hospice UK   may be useful too.

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Hospital care

If you have troublesome symptoms, your doctor or nurse may refer you to hospital. Decisions around your care could be made by staff in Accident and Emergency at the point of admission, but many hospitals also have specialised palliative care units.

In this unit, a specialist palliative care team – sometimes called the Macmillan Support Team or Symptom Control Team – will help to control your symptoms and provide emotional support and information for you and your family.

Your specialist palliative care team may include doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains, but it can also consist of just a single nurse. The size of your team depends on where you are in the UK.

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Residential care: care homes

You may choose to be cared for in a care home (sometimes called a residential home) if you can no longer manage in your own home. Care homes usually offer long-stay care, but they may also offer short-stay or respite care to support those caring for you.

In a care home, trained staff will look after you day and night. They provide the same kind of care that family members offer at home, such as help with washing and dressing, and providing meals.

Most people will be expected to pay something towards their residential care. If your local council or trust is involved in arranging your placement, the amount you have to pay will be worked out based on national guidelines. A local authority may also provide free residential care if a person’s stay is temporary (normally less than eight weeks), or if the residential care is for a child.

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Residential care: nursing homes

Some care homes provide skilled nursing care to residents when they need it. These are sometimes called nursing homes. If your condition means you need nursing care on a frequent basis, then this type of home may be more suitable.

In some cases the NHS will pay for residential care under its NHS continuing healthcare   scheme. However not all people are eligible for this – read our information about NHS continuing healthcare for more. If you’re not eligible for NHS continuing healthcare, you might still be able to get funding to pay for nursing care. An assessment is done automatically for all new nursing home residents.

To find out what residential care is available in your area, speak to your GP, district nurse, social worker, palliative care team, hospital doctor or nurse. Availability does vary and can take a while to organise.

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External websites

Carers Direct   – NHS guide to social care

Carers UK   (see the homepage for links to nation-specific information)

Carers Trust  

Crossroads Caring for Carers   (Northern Ireland only)

Gold Standards Framework   – Improving quality and coordination of care

NHS   – NHS continuing healthcare


This content is provided for general information purposes only. It's not medical, financial, legal or personal advice. We suggest that you consult with a qualified professional about your individual circumstances. How our information is created and how it's used.

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