Choosing a care home could be of the most important decisions you make in life – whether you’re choosing a care home for yourself, for a loved one, or a friend.
But with so many options available, how do you pick just one? Well, there are many factors to help you decide; from things like care type and budget, to what activities the home offers, the types of meals and what the staff are like.
We know it can get confusing, which is why we’ve put together this useful collection of information, tips and advice. So, if you’re ready to start your search, read on for our guide to choosing a care home…
Finding the Perfect Care Home
There are many factors that go into choosing a care home, so to make it super easy for you, we’ve provided a short summary of the main things you should be looking for in your dream care home.
If you’re struggling for time, why not get in touch with one of Lottie’s care experts who will guide you through the care home search process for free and from start to finish. Contact us here.
First of all – and most importantly – what type of care are you looking for? Do you need help with day-to-day tasks like washing, dressing and toileting? Do you have a specific medical condition or health concern that may require nursing care? Are you living with dementia and therefore need a home with specialist dementia facilities?
The home you choose must be able to provide the level of care and support that you need to be happy and healthy, so this will help you narrow down your search considerably.
If you just need personal care then residential homes will likely be the right choice. If you need nursing care, nursing homes with qualified nurses will be required. If you have certain health problems you may need a place with specialist support.
You can do a care needs assessment to find out which type of care home might be best for you. This is a free, professional test provided by your local council and helps you work out what type of care you need, as well as whether you’re eligible for financial support to cover your care costs.
The next thing to consider when choosing a care home is your location.
If you’re selecting a home for yourself, you may have a partner who will be staying at your home, so you’ll want to choose a home nearby. Opting for a care home in your local area will also make it easier for family and friends to visit.
Once you know exactly which type of care you need, you can search for care homes providing that care type in the area.
Fees & Budget
Care homes can be very expensive, so it’s vital to work out what budget you’re working with before you start your search to avoid being disappointed.
Care costs include rent, food, laundry, heating and other utility costs and some also charge additional fees for extra services, such as medical aids, professional visits, hairdressers or chiropodists.
You can request a complete breakdown of the fees paid in advance to prevent nasty surprises at a later date. If you are entitled to financial support from your local council, they will arrange a suitable residential or nursing home to meet your care needs and match your budget.
You may be able to get financial assistance from the council or local authority.
Care Home Ratings
Any good care home should have a positive rating from the relevant health and social care regulator – in England’s case, this is the Care Quality Commission or CQC.
Looking at ratings can give you really useful insights into the quality of the home and its care, as well as its facilities and staffing. A rating of ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’ from the CQC is preferable and you can find the most recent inspection report for the home on the home’s website, or look for it on the CQC website.
If you live in Scotland, check out ratings given by the Care Inspectorate, in Wales, it’s the Care and Social Services Inspectorate and in Northern Ireland, look for the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RIQA).
A great way to learn about life at a particular care home is to read online reviews. Usually, reviews are made by relatives or friends of the care home resident, providing feedback on anything and everything; from accommodation and food quality to activities and staff.
Care home websites and brochures are keen to display only the positives to potential customers, but reviews from Google or Trustpilot can give you more in-depth, honest insights.
Management & Staff
Management and staff are another extremely important ingredient in a good care home. A care home’s staff should all be qualified and properly trained for the type of care offered at the home, as well as friendly, caring and helpful.
Don’t be afraid to ask the care home manager and staff questions when you visit a care home, as they should be equipped to answer any queries you might have about the home and how it’s run.
Staff should be interested in residents and take time getting to know them, finding out about their lives and any personal preferences likes and dislikes they have and keeping residents happy in their daily life.
Accommodation & Facilities
Accommodation will vary so it’s useful to work out what type you want. For example, some homes offer private rooms with en suite facilities and private dining and lounge areas for those who like their own space, while other homes take a more communal approach, with several bedrooms sharing a communal space and bathrooms. You may want to make sure you get your own room too as in rare circumstances this is not the case.
Some residents might be lucky enough to get a room with a balcony, or if the room is on the ground floor, a door leading onto a patio or garden.
If being able to personalise your room with items of furniture and decoration is important to you, check this with the care home manager when you’re viewing a home. Some homes let residents bring their own beds, TVs and other possessions from home to make the room feel more homely.
Communal areas should be the life and soul of a care home, bustling spaces where residents meet to socialise over a cup of tea, catch up on their favourite TV programme, play games and join in activities.
When you’re visiting care homes, make sure to look closely at the communal spaces, such as the lounges and dining rooms. You’ll be spending a lot of time in these areas, so it’s a good idea to make sure you like the atmosphere.
Make sure to check if they have a communal garden, this can be vital for getting fresh air and sitting in the sun on a nice day!
Accessibility is another key factor when it comes to your care home decision. If you have a physical disability that makes getting around difficult, such as climbing steps, your care home will need to have features such as ramps and wide doorways for wheelchairs, or lifts in the building.
You should also check whether there enough parking spaces at the home and whether facilities such as shops are within easy reach and accessible for you.
Activities & Home Experiences
Care home life can still be vibrant and exciting, with activity programmes and event calendars on hand to help residents socialise, have fun and create meaningful relationships with other residents
Most care homes offer activities like gardening, films, coffee mornings and gentle exercise classes, but you may also find dance and music classes, arts and crafts and day trips.
If you have a hobby you’d find hard to give up, ask care home staff whether there’s a class or opportunity available. Better yet, if there’s an activity you’ve always wanted to try, care homes can be extremely accommodating and some have even helped residents achieve lifelong dreams like skydiving!
Good food is one of the greatest pleasures in life – and care home food should be no exception! Whereas once care homes had a reputation for bland food and limited options, these days the chefs and their kitchen team in care homes pull out all the stops to whip up delicious, nutritious dishes – and there are usually a number of different options to suit every taste and dietary requirement.
If you’re trialling a care home, why not sit down for dinner and sample some of the food prepared?
Policies & Contracts
Next, you need to go over all the admin that comes with moving into a care home, including the care home’s policies and contracts. Make sure you read the small print to ensure that the care home is right for you and there aren’t any policies that might pose an issue. For example, if you can’t imagine life without your beloved dog, be aware that some care homes won’t allow pets.
You will also want to carefully read the care home’s contract and make sure you fully understand everything that is required from both you and the care home itself. You can request a copy of the care home’s contracts and terms and conditions before you sign up.
Visiting Care Homes
Once you’ve got all the initial research out of the way, the best way to get a feel for a care home is to visit it.
You can book a visit by calling or emailing the home in advance, or if you are unable to visit in person, a member of staff may be able to come to you.
Your visit will likely involve a tour of the home and its facilities, but you can also have a meal in the dining area or jon in a group activity. We would recommend that you take a family member or friend with you on the day as support.
While at the home, look around you for clues as to the quality of life there. Do residents seem happy and well? Are they socialising and laughing with fellow residents and staff? Are facilities clean and well-kept? Do you feel that the environment would suit you and your lifestyle? Never underestimate the power of your gut feeling – if you feel happy and at home there, that’s a good sign.
Questions To Ask
If you need a handy summary of questions to ask potential care homes, you can use the below suggestions:
- What training do staff receive?
- Is there a trial period?
- Is there a waiting list?
- Can residents choose their carer?
- Are mobility aids provided/allowed?
- Can loved ones stay overnight?
- Has it passed all the necessary inspection reports?
- Is it easy to reach the home by car or public transport?
- Is there parking?
- Are there set visiting times?
- What is there of interest nearby? E.g. shops, pubs, places of worship
- Can you bring your own furniture and possessions?
- Does the home have Wi Fi?
- Is there a garden or accessible outdoor space?
- Are residents allowed pets?
- Are residents and their families involved in decisions about their care?
- What procedures are in place to keep residents safe?
- Can residents choose their own daily routine?
- Is there an activity programme?
- How do fees work?
The care home you choose will ultimately depend on your personal preferences and often your gut feeling, but we hope our guide has helped start you off on your journey to finding the right care home!
Don’t forget, you can always ask family members and friends for their advice and support – and check out our other guides for more information.
Or, if all of the above seems like a lot, why not get in touch with one of Lottie’s care experts who will guide you through the care home search process for free and from start to finish. Contact us here.