How to choose a care home...
Once you know the type of care you need, the next step is to find the best way for you to get it. This may be via a:
- care home
- nursing home
- sheltered housing, or
- home care service (care providers) which can deliver the care and support you’re looking for.
The main thing is being happy with your choice of care provider – and knowing they can meet your needs.
Your next steps:
- Research all your options.
- Make a list of your care needs now – and those that you think you might have in the future.
- Make a shortlist of possible care providers.
- Meet with the different organisations and the people who’ll be providing your day-to-day care.
Make a shortlist of care providers
Once you’ve listed your care needs, the next step is compiling a shortlist of suitable care providers. It’s a good idea to do this before you start visiting care homes or meeting with home-care providers.
If you’re planning on moving to a care home or to more suitable accommodation, think about location. And make sure you pick places that are convenient for friends and relatives to visit. It might seem natural to look at care homes close to where you’ve always lived. However, your support network may have changed – so take that into account when you’re compiling your shortlist. And think about moving close to immediate family – or those in the best position to visit regularly.
When you’re compiling your shortlist, consider what’s important to you by identifying ‘essentials’ and what it’d be ‘nice to have’.
For example, you can consider things such as:
- being able to attend social gatherings
- regular trips out
- activities and entertainment
- support services
- internet access, and
- an onsite hair salon or barber.
Care homes and sheltered accommodation should have a range of activities available for you to join in and home care companies can often accompany you on social outings to help keep you active and involved.
Get help compiling your care provider shortlist
There are independent and impartial organisations and websites that can help you find suitable care providers. These include:
- The adult social services department of your local authority.
- Your local library may have useful directories – such as the A-Z Care Homes Guide.
- For England, the Care Quality Commission has online search tools to find care homes and home care services by location. You can also find information on the services they offer.
- For Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, find local care providers – and their latest inspection reports – by visiting:
- The Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) is a national charity that supports older people. It has both a housing and care home directory and a home care directory.
Check the quality of the services
When you find a care provider you like, you can check the quality of the services they provide by:
- reading their inspection reports and checking their scores awarded by the regulatory bodies (listed above)
- checking for reoccurring issues, such as:
- high staff turnover, and
- frequent inspections
- asking friends, family and colleagues for their opinions – and any recommendations.
Can they meet your needs?
Make sure to check if the care services provided match your care needs before arranging a visit.
Request their brochure and price list
Once you’ve drawn up a list of care providers you think might meet your specific needs, you can ask them for:
- their brochure
- their price list
- information regarding any current/ future vacancies, and
- estimates on how long their waiting list is – if they don’t have vacancies.
Arrange some visits
It’s essential that you visit any care home or sheltered housing group you’re considering. This is so you can check out the feel of the place – and meet their staff and residents.
You may want a close family member, or friend, to go with you on these visits.
If you’re considering home care, it’s also a good idea to meet with home-care providers. Make sure you also meet their managers and the people who’ll provide your day-to-day care. This is so you can be sure you’re picking your best match.
You shouldn’t rush the process of choosing your care provider. To really get to know a care home or housing organisation, you can:
- visit it several times
- visit at different times of the day (including mealtimes)
- talk to the relatives of the other residents to find out what they think, if possible, and
- ask if you can have the option of a short stay – so you can try out the care provided.
Similarly, you’ll want the home care companies to visit you so you can learn more about them.
Prepare for your visits
We’ve created some ‘questions to ask’, for you to take with you when you meet with care providers. They should help you get the information you need, so you can be confident in choosing the best care option for you.
Whether you’re choosing a care home, nursing home, sheltered housing or home care, use them as a prompt, so you remember to ask everything that’s important to you. You’ll also have a record of your meeting to refer back to. Click on the link to print them out before your meeting.
What to look for in a care provider
The best care homes, home care providers and sheltered housing organisations do more than simply meet your health and care needs.
The best care providers will also:
- treat you as an individual
- make sure you’re mentally stimulated, entertained, physically active and socially engaged
- make sure you receive care that’s right for you, and
- respect your cultural and spiritual needs.
You can find care providers that cater for people of specific faiths – or for people from particular professional backgrounds.
When you’re visiting a care home or sheltered housing organisation, take a look at any noticeboards. A noticeboard will show recent customer and relative messages, details about activities and the week’s menus.
Also make sure the care home:
- has staff trained to give those with dementia, or other medical conditions, the specialist help they need, and
- has accommodation designed to provide the best possible environment for its residents.
For example, if you’re looking for dementia care:
- Staff must understand how to talk to the resident and respect their dignity.
- Staff must be able to stay calm if a resident becomes confused, angry or aggressive.
- There should be a variety of regular activities to stimulate residents’ minds and memories. This can include physical activities, if appropriate. Also good are activities such as:
- light gardening
- 'music for the brain' sessions, and
- 'memory box' sessions.
- The care setting should be specially designed and decorated, because dementia can affect the way a person ‘sees the world’. Décor should:
- include colours that are warm and strong, but not harsh
- have sufficient contrast to clearly define floors, walls and doors
- feature lighting that avoids glare and shadows
- avoid patterns and ‘speckled’ designs that can confuse – especially on floors, and
- have plenty of ‘navigation aids’ to guide the way – with clear signs on the doors.
What to ask care providers
Questions to ask care providers can include:
- Are you a member of any trade associations? If so which ones? (After your visit check to make sure that any mentioned are reputable.)
- Can I have a copy of your brochure and price list? (If these haven’t already been provided.)
- What services are included?
- What’s not provided?
- What additional expenses do you charge for?
- What training have your staff had? And have they all been checked by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)? The DBS check has replaced the Criminal Records Bureau (also known as CRB) check.
- How long is the contract for? How easy is it to terminate the contract?
- What happens if I’m unhappy with the service?
- What happens if I don’t need the service any more, and I want to leave?
- What happens if my care needs change?
- What happens if I run out of money?
Care at home specific questions can include:
- What services are included?
- What’s your hourly rate?
- Do you charge extra for weekends / bank holidays, evenings etc?
- Do you have a 24-hour number/ phone line for emergencies?
- How many different people will be providing these services? And do you provide holiday cover?
- How quickly can arrangements be changed to match any changing needs I may have?
- What’s your minimum length of visit?
- How long do you give your employees to travel between appointments?
- What happens in bad weather?
- What training has been given to your employees to ensure they give those with dementia, or other medical conditions, the specialist help they need?
You can download our handy guides to finding the right care provider:
Decide on the care provider for you
When you’ve completed all your visits, take some time to go over your notes. You can also discuss your thoughts with a trusted friend or relative.
Once you’ve chosen a provider, let them know as soon as possible. This will increase your chances of getting the care you need at the earliest opportunity.
Hold off turning down other providers until you’ve confirmed your place at your chosen provider and everything’s in place.