Choosing a care home : A guide to Elderly Care

This is one of the most important decisions you will make so it’s important that you have all the information you need beforehand. This means choosing reading through all literature, compiling a list of questions to ask and then visiting a selection of homes. This guide is here to help you to choose the right home for you - if you are facing that decision, or for a parent or relative. The most crucial issue here is that of choosing a care home with a high standard of care, in a suitable location and that will cater to your specific needs. Fortunately there is help available to do so. The Care Quality Commission assigns ‘quality ratings’ in the form of ‘stars’ which state how good or not a home is. The greater the number of stars the better the home. Our links section contains more information about the Care Quality Commission.

Choosing a home starts with a visit to your GP or your local social services department. They will conduct a needs assessment before producing a report which clearly sets out the type of care you need. You also have issues of what type of home - local authority or private, paying for your care, visiting a home and then making a decision.

Another issue and one that none of us want to happen is that of dissatisfaction with your care home. In the majority of cases, people are happy with their choice of home, but if you are not then you need to know about how to complain.

What to consider when choosing a care home

Here is a list of what you need to consider when choosing a care home:

  • Your care needs
  • Type of care
  • Type of care home
  • Care home fees/paying for your care
  • Care home quality rating/inspection report
  • Recommendations from others
  • Visiting the home
  • Signing the contract
  • Complaints procedure
  • Additional help and advice

Your care needs These are decided via a ‘care assessment’ which is carried out by social services. This is then used to produce a ‘care plan’ which explains your needs and the type of care you require.

Type of care

Do you require specialist care due to a progressive disease such as Parkinson’s?

Is your parent or relative suffering from a form of dementia?

Or do you care for someone on a long term basis and need a short break?

The answers to these will determine the type of care you require.

For more help visit our what type of care home?section.

Type of care home Do you need help with bathing or dressing yourself but not nursing care? Are you recovering from a recent illness and only a need a minimal amount of nursing care?

If so then a residential care home may be the answer.

If you care for someone who needs regular and complex nursing care then a nursing home may be more suitable. If you want to know more about types of care home then visit our what type of care home? section.

Care home fees/paying for your care Care home fees come a shock to the majority of people. On average, you can expect to pay £30,000 a year for a place at a care home so it is a case of thinking about how you will pay for this. If you are choosing to ‘self-pay’, then you need to consider what you can afford over the long term.

If you are looking for help towards the costs from your social services department then they may help depending upon your financial situation. They will carry out an assessment to determine your financial situation and make a decision from that.

Learn more about care home fees in our paying for elderly care section.

Care home quality rating/inspection report Each care home has a quality rating and inspection report, compiled by the Care Quality Commission (England). This is a useful indicator of how good (or not) a home is and can help when choosing a home.

For more information visit the Care Quality Commission website.

If you live in Scotland then visit the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care website.

If you live in Wales then visit the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales website.

If you live in Northern Ireland then visit the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority website.

Recommendations from others

If you have any friends who have been through this process then ask them for a recommendation. Word of mouth is always useful and they may be able to give you the name of a good care home.

Visiting the home

This is a very important part of the process. You need to visit a home, or a few homes, in order to find the right one for you, and one that you will like.

Most people find that they instinctively know when a home is right for them as soon as they step through the door.

It’s a good idea to make a list of questions to take with you on your visit. This ensures that you don’t forget anything which may turn out to be important. Plus you want to be sure that you (or your parent/relative) get the best care possible. In order to help you with this, we have devised a list of questions which you can use during your visit. These are included in our finding the right care home section.

Signing the contract Once you have found a care home that you are happy with you (or a relative) will have to sign a contract. Make sure that you read this thoroughly and that you understand and are satisfied with it before signing.

Complaints procedure

Every home will have a complaints procedure and this should be pointed out to you when you move in. If you have any complaints during your stay then either speak to someone at the home or contact the Care Quality Commission.

Additional help and advice

For additional advice try charities such as Help the Aged and Age Concern or the Relatives & Residents Association.


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