Choosing the Right Care Home

Choosing the right care home for a loved one can be an emotional and stressful decision. From identifying the facilities needed, funding care home placements and understanding different types of homes it can be a bit of a minefield for those not familiar with the jargon. Here, in the third part of our care series, we have compiled a list of the best questions to ask to start you on the right path to finding the right home. 

Ultimately, your decision will be based on the ‘feel’ you get from a prospective home and your encounters with the staff that will form such an integral part of your loved one’s life. But, in order to get the most out of the visit, here are some things to bear in mind.

Will it offer the right level of care?

This is probably the most fundamental question. You need to establish what kind of care and support is needed before narrowing your search. There are two main types of care home – residential and nursing: all care homes offer help with personal care if you need it – activities such as washing, dressing, going to the toilet and taking medication. Some, often referred to as ‘nursing homes’, offer nursing care in addition. Some nursing homes will also offer specialist dementia support – these are known as EMI’s, homes for the Elderly Mentally Infirm.

Someone who still has all their mental faculties but just needs physical support should not be moved into a dementia home, as this will cause them to deteriorate. Similarly, a person suffering with dementia would really benefit from specialist care, which helps to reduce the severity and speed of onset of symptoms.

Generally care homes are owned and run by local councils, private companies or voluntary organisations. If you are struggling to find a care home that provides the sort of care you need, ask your local council to help. It has a responsibility to find a suitable home for anyone it has assessed as needing a place in a care home.

What to Ask on a visit?

Once you have established homes in the local area that meet your needs, make enquiries and ask to be sent brochures. From there, you can start to think of some personal questions. Do not be afraid to ask lots – this is a huge decision and you need to be as informed as possible. Here are some ideas of what to ask:

Questions about Accommodation:

• Is the home comfortable, clean and inviting? Is there a fresh, clean smell?

• Can you look at the room your loved one is likely to have?

• Can your loved ones personal possessions and furniture be brought in?

• Do bedrooms have TV and telephone points? If not can calls be made and received in private?

• Are all toilet and washing facilities clean and easily accessible?

• Are pets allowed? Can visitors bring pets into the home?

• Are there gardens in which you can sit?

• Does the home’s insurance policy cover loss or damage to possessions, or should personal cover be arranged?

• Can your loved one choose when to get up in the morning, and when to go to bed?

Questions about Facilities and Food:

• What is the food like? Can you see some menus?

• Are there facilities to make a light snack, or a hot drink?

• What arrangements are made for residents to attend religious services either in the home or outside?

• Is there a minibus or other transport?

• Can visitors come at any time? Can they share meals or stay the night?

• Are trial stays possible?

• What arrangements are made for residents to attend religious services either in the home or outside?

• What is the activity programme like? Can residents still take part in their hobbies?

As mentioned these questions are just a guideline – the general feel of the home is something important and unique to personal tastes. You may have your own essential aspects or deal breakers that you’ve discussed together. Before you visit make a note on facilities or accommodation aspects, such as activities for residents or en suite bathrooms, which you and your loved one are not prepared to budge on and stick to your guns.

Financial Implications:

For proper advice on your care options it is certainly worth visiting an Independent Financial Advisor who is trained in later life care options. They will be able to look at various options after assessing the financial situation of your loved on. When you find a home you both like, make sure you ask them about costs of care. Are fees paid in advance? What extras will have to be paid for? Ask what fees are payable during a hospital stay or holiday? Make sure to ask how often are fees increased, and by how much. These questions, along with a written contract, should help make sure you are fully aware of the financial implications of full time care.

If you still have some questions or need advice about care choices, there are some fantastic resources online. www.ageuk.org.uk has great downloadable advice packs and www.firststopcareadvice.org.uk can answer a lot of your questions.