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Making life better in a care home

23rd September 2015

Moving into a care home or nursing home is a huge physical and emotional adjustment. The decision to move into a home is often taken reluctantly.  It can be traumatic for the person moving into the home as well as for a partner, close family or friends left behind.

Having chosen a care home and made the move, there are things you can do to make sure the experience is as good as possible.  Here are our tips:

Stay in touch
  • Visit as often as you can – it really helps to get to know the carers and the way the home works.  This makes it easier for you to talk to staff about your relative’s care, and make suggestions.
  • Try to vary the times of your visits.  This will help you see the different activities across the day/week, to meet different members of staff and to sample the food. Homes rarely impose strict visiting times  – relatives and friends are always welcome to drop in.
  • If you live too far away to visit often, encourage your elderly relative’s friends to visit.  Make sure you catch up with them regularly to see how things are going.
  • Call the home and ask to speak to a carer responsible for your relative that day. Ask for updates on their care, health, anything you are concerned about.
 Make sure you have input
  • The care home should ask you to help with biographical information about your relative when they first move in.  This gives them insight into their life history, photos help too.  This is important in ensuring your relative is treated as an individual, not just a patient. When you visit make a point of talking to the carers about your relative and their earlier life. Depending on their health, you may be the only one able to paint a picture of the person they have always been.
  • Most homes allow and even encourage residents to bring some of their belongings with them – photos, favourite ornaments and pictures, vases, small pieces of furniture. It helps make their new room feel more homely and familiar and provides talking points for carers and visitors.
  • When someone first moves into a care home, a care plan is written, covering all aspects of their care. This will be in a folder and is left in their room. It is updated several times a day with comments by staff. It will include things like when a bath is taken, any changes in medication, any falls or other incidents as well as feeding/sleeping/toilet patterns. You should look at it when visiting. The care plan should be reviewed regularly and you should be encouraged to take part in the review if you ask.
 Get involved
  • Most care homes have a programme of activities which may change each week. There may be an activities coordinator who you can speak to if you have suggestions to make.
  • If you have the time, inclination and skills, most care homes will be thrilled if you want to get involved in the activities programme (music – making and listening, reminiscing, games, quizzes, knitting, cooking etc).
  • You may also have contacts in the local community who would like to volunteer in the home. This could be school children coming in to sing to or talk to residents, a Scout group or team from a local company coming to do gardening, sixth formers coming in to help residents use technology. Anything which strengthens links with the local community and the outside world is hugely beneficial to residents of care homes and makes them feel more valued.
  • Some care homes are happy for you to bring in a dog or other small pet to visit and this can be really popular with the residents, many of whom have had to leave the pets behind when they moved in.
  • Most care homes have residents’ and relatives’ meetings every month or so. If you are able to make it, it’s a great way to hear about what is going on and to make suggestions.
 Give feedback

The more you know about your relative’s life in the care home the better you will understand how their care needs are being met. If you are not happy with any aspect of their care then speak to the manager as soon as possible.

  • If you don’t feel your concerns are being addressed put them in writing to the manager and owner of the home. If your relative is unhappy and is not being cared for adequately, you should consider finding an alternative home for them.
  • If you think there may be abuse going on, look at this advice How to spot and act on abuse.
  • If your concerns are serious you should write to the CQC or the equivalent care regulator in your country.

What is your experience of residential care? Do you have advice for others or would you like to hear what other’s have done? Join the conversation in Age Space Forum.

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