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How to choose the right care home

Choosing the right care home is an important decision and with our latest guide, we have put together some must-know advice and tips on how to do so.

When it comes to choosing the right care home for you, there’s a lot to consider. After all, it’s a very important decision, so you will want to be confident with the choices made. Finding a care home is a personal decision as each of us come with our own particular circumstances, needs, and care requirements. So, beyond looking at the very important financial aspect, which is where the checklist for continuing healthcare comes in, how does one go about the process of identifying a suitable residence? Well, that’s why we have put together this guide on how to choose the right care home, letting you know what to look for and the questions to ask.

Plan in advance

As with most things in life, preparation is key, so if you think that a care home might be something that will become appropriate for you in the future, it’s not a bad idea at all to give it a bit of thought now to make things easier. This is the advice of Kathy Lawrence, the editor of When They Get Older, a website that shares tips and experience with families helping older relatives and friends:

“Many care home admissions happen in a bit of a rush and there’s no time to choose, so why not think in advance about where you might like to live should the need arise. Visit a few to get a feel for them. That’s not saying you will have to move there, or that there will be a space in your favourite, but if your family are aware of your preferences, it can really help them to make decisions with you.”

Ensure the home provides the care you need

One of the first things on your agenda should, of course, be to ensure that the home you are looking at is able to provide the specific care that you need. But don’t just consider the present, think ahead to the future as well. Will the care homes that you are looking at be able to provide the care that you need going forward? These are important questions to consider. The care that you require will be different than others, so doing the research to determine which homes are suitable for your circumstances is vital.

Speak to someone at the home before visiting

Beyond reading the literature available on the care home’s website or reading a brochure, it’s certainly a good idea to speak to someone at the residence before visiting. This can be done either by phone or email. By speaking to a member of staff or manager, you can get a better understanding of what the people are like that work there and also ask a few key questions. Taking this step will help you to avoid wasting time by visiting a home that is not right for you. Choosing a care home is a big decision, so take your time and contact the homes on your shortlist to help you narrow down your choices.

Consult the CQC inspection report

Another important step in helping you to narrow down your list of options, and ultimately choose the right care home for you, is to consult the most recent inspection report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the independent regulator of health and social care in England. On the CQC website, you can simply search for the name of a home and see the results of their latest inspection. The report will give you the date of the most recent inspection and provide you with a rating on particular services, such as safety, effectiveness, care, and how well-led the home is. The report also provides an overall rating for the home, helping you to make an informed decision.

Find out if the home has a waiting list

Of course, an important thing to consider when searching for the right care home is the availability. If you are looking to move in as soon as possible you will want to identify some care homes that have vacancies or at least a short waiting list. However, if you are not looking to move in for a while or can hold off for a period of time, this will allow you to spread your net wider and consider care homes that have a long waiting list. Everyone’s situation is different, but it will be a smart move to find out this information sooner rather than later before becoming too invested in a home that isn’t available.

Visit the care home multiple times

Once you have narrowed down your preferred list, it will be a good idea to visit the care home more than once. Your initial visit will, of course, be the most important, giving you (hopefully) a good first impression, but by visiting again a second time, you can get a better sense of the place and perhaps see different members of staff. You need to be comfortable with this decision, just like when buying a house, so multiple visits should certainly be on the agenda. Also, by visiting at different times of day (if possible) you can speak to different people and gain a more detailed understanding of the home to help you with your decision.

When we spoke to Aileen Waton, the Head of Dementia and Professional Standards at Bupa Care Homes, she stressed the importance of visiting the home in person to gather information: “My number one tip would be to visit the care homes you’re considering to get as much information as possible. You can do this unannounced or, if you prefer, you can arrange a visit with the manager and team at the home.

“Everyone’s care needs and preferences are different, so visiting homes you are considering will give you the best understanding of what each home has to offer – whether that’s facilities, specialist support or the staff themselves. If possible, visit the homes with the person the care is for, but if that’s not possible, try to go with another family member or friend. Understanding your options and choosing the right care can be difficult, but managers will help you work out the right options for you.”

Ask key questions while visiting

A big part of your actual visit to the care homes on your shortlist should most certainly be asking key questions that will help you make your final choice. While you’re looking around and are speaking to members of staff, it will be a good idea to have some questions in mind beforehand that you can ask. Make a list if you like – you don’t want to get home and realise you have forgotten something. Of course, this is where multiple visits can help, giving you that second chance to get your answers. In terms of the type of questions, try and ask about topics such as:

  • Food
  • Exercise
  • Family visitation
  • The ratio of staff to patients
  • End of life care
  • Fees
  • Contracts
  • Trial periods
  • Security at the home

Kathy from When They Get Older also has some great advice about key questions that should be asked of oneself while visiting a care home: “When someone moves into a care home, they are changing where they live, just as they would if they were moving to a new house. So, it makes sense to consider the same things. Do you like the location? What’s the view like? Are the windows double-glazed? Can you afford it? All those practical questions, plus the one that’s undefinable: does your gut feeling tell you this is where you could be content?”

Aileen from Bupa also suggests some important questions to ask and to consider when visiting a care home: “First impressions are important. The things you may want to consider include; are the buildings and grounds well maintained? Is there an accessible garden or courtyard? Are the staff welcoming? Is the home clean and the rooms comfortable?

“You should check that there are appropriate activities at the home, as these can impact how entertained and engaged the person requiring care is. If the home has an activities coordinator, you could ask to meet with them to ensure the home has the right level and type of activity for your loved one.

“Ask about the food. Do residents usually eat together? How often does the menu change? Is food prepared on the premises? Can the home meet your loved ones’ dietary needs? These are all questions you’ll want to ask when considering a home. Also, don’t be afraid to ask to join a mealtime.

“Depending on your loved one’s circumstances, you may also want to consider accessibility – how easy is it for friends and family to get there? Are there any restrictions on visiting times or number of visitors? Is there space for residents to spend time with visitors?

“While these may seem straightforward, there can be a lot to take in when viewing a care home so you might forget. If you do, feel free to visit again or call the home – the entire team should make you feel welcome at any time.”

Tips for choosing the right care home

We hope this guide has been an informative one and will help you in your search for the right care home. With some research and patience, you will be well equipped to undertake a successful search. As a quick take away for your convenience, here are the tips once more for choosing the right care home:

  • Plan in advance
  • Ensure the home provides the care you need
  • Speak to someone at the home before visiting
  • Consult the CQC inspection report
  • Find out if the home has a waiting list
  • Visit the care home multiple times
  • Ask key questions while visiting

Image Credit: agilemktg1

Author: Tim Davies LLB

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