• Forum
  • Podcasts
  • Stages of Care
  • Money
  • Legal
  • Health
  • dementia
  • life
  • For carers
  • Services
  • local
  • blog

Choosing a Care Home

If you find yourself having to choose a care home, there are lots of decisions to be made and things to consider.

 Which type of home?

There are different kinds of homes providing different levels of care and support, but there 2 main options – nursing home or residential  care home.The key difference between the two is that anyone who has a complex medical condition and needs care from a nurse regularly, will need to be in a nursing home. They have a registered nurse on duty at all times. Residential care homes can also bring in medical help when required, but they mainly provide ‘social care’ – help with washing, dressing, feeding as well as providing social activities for residents. Make sure you know what you are looking for when choosing a care home.


Another thing to think about when choosing a care home is location.   Check the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website to see which care homes are nearby, and at the quality of care delivered. For other countries in the UK check the relevant wesbite – links given below. Location should be considered so pick out local care homes to visit and see if they are appropriate.

However, this is only ever a small part of the picture: you need to speak to as many people as you can about local care homes. Your relative’s GP, their friends and neighbours, social services – anyone you can find who has some experience of any care homes in the area you are looking at. Which? Elderly Care publishes a really useful checklist when you are choosing a care home.

Top 10 tips for looking at and choosing a care home

1) Viewing a Care Home

In order to make the right decision in choosing a care home, take a visit to your selected care homes. But, never make an appointment to view a care home, just turn up. You may get shown around by the manager or a junior care assistant. It doesn’t matter. Anyway, you will get a real insight into how the care home operates on a daily basis, what it feels like and you can ask loads of questions. You can make an appointment for an assessment once you have a shortlist of possible homes.

2) Social Scene

Before making your decision with choosing a care home, remember, small is not always beautiful. Larger homes often have a lot more going on in the way of activities and provide more opportunities for socialising between residents to keep them entertained within their new accommodation. So choosing a care home based on your elderly relatives needs is a must, do they require nursing care or more of an entertaining home?

3) Gathering Perspectives

Choosing a care home is difficult as there are so many. So how do you find a care home that is  best for your elderly relative? Simple, try to gather perspectives (whether its negative or positive), from as many people as you can from the staff to residents and relatives. How happy do the staff look? Ask whoever shows you around whether they like working there, whether they would like to be cared for there. Ask what staff turnover is like and whether agency staff are regularly used.

4) First Impressions of The Home

When finding a care home your thoughts and feelings about the place matter! What are your first impressions of the home? Do you feel welcome by the staff and residents? Does the entrance look cared for, or is the paintwork chipped and are there cigarette butts on the ground from staff smoking breaks? If you experience a great first impression of the home then you are more likely to want your elderly parent receiving care there. So remember which homes you liked and what you liked about them to help you in choosing a care home.

5) Your Judgements

Your judgement is important as you are the one finding a care home and choosing it for your elderly parent. What do you think of the home? Notice if the residents and their families look happy. Are there any negative aspects you have picked up on your tour around the home? Is there are bad smell when you walk through the door? There is no excuse for lingering urine odours- or worse. Keep a note of the negatives as this will help you better determine which homes to eliminate from your list.

6) Engage with Residents

When finding a care home to visit make sure you talk to the residents and ask if they are enjoying living there. What do they do during the day and in the evening? Are there activities which would be suitable for your relative to participate in and are outings organised? Is there an activities coordinator on the staff- Ask them what activities are taking place this week. If you can, talk to some of their relatives too, they may help in choosing a care home.


7) Personalising Rooms and Routine

Is it possible for your elderly parent to personalise their own rooms. Ask how much freedom residents have in deciding on their own routine and activities. Finding a care home that allows residents to choose what they would like to do, gives them a chance to maintain their independence. Ask too if they can furnish their own room, bringing their own bedding, hang their own pictures etc. Look at some of the resident’s rooms if possibly to see how homely they are.

8) Providing Care

It will be easier for you in choosing a care home if you know your elderly parent is being taken care of and their needs are met. Find out what care packages the home provide and ask what care is provided for End of Life. What training is given to the staff? It’s important you understand and know exactly what type of care your elderly parent will receive.


9) Care Home Staff Training

If relevant you should also ask what training the staff have in caring for residents with any kind of dementia. Ask if the staff are trained in safeguarding, manual handling, first aid and hygiene these are very important as everyone working within the home should have up to date training. It’s the law! Finding out as much information on the home as you can it will help you in choosing a care home.


10) Communication Between Care Home and Relatives

Finding a care home that ticks all the boxes will be challenging, but if you make a list of all the important things that you think is necessary for the home to have in place for your elderly parent write them down. And then whilst visiting the home you can ask questions about those issues. Ask how the home communicates with and involves relatives. Is there set visiting times or can relatives show up whenever they want to. From there, you can start on making a pros and cons list on the homes you have visited and help in choosing a care home for your elderly parent.

Further reading on Finding a Care Home

For information on care homes, you might like to look at the advice given by Age UK. For advice covering the rest of the UK, go to NHS England, NIHealth in Wales and Health Scotland.
Information on the regulation of care homes and care agencies is available at:  England – CQC, Wales – Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales, Northern Ireland – Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority and Scotland – Care Inspectorate.

You might also be interested in our section on making life better in a care home.

Do you have experience of choosing a care home? Maybe you would like to see how other people have made their decisions. Join the conversation in Age Space Forum.