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Home Elderly Care How to Choose a Care Home – An Insider’s Guide

How to Choose a Care Home – An Insider’s Guide

With so many care options available, it’s tough to know exactly what to look for when choosing a care home. From covering the weekly cost of care to the activities on-offer, viewing a care home presents the perfect opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about the home. If you’re looking to get as much out of the visit as possible, there’s a few questions you might not have considered. 

From what happens at night at a care home to whether your elderly loved one’s furry friends can move in too, we have researched some of the more unusual questions to ask when choosing a care home.

10 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Care Home

In order to answer ‘how to choose a care home’ you need two things. First you need to find care homes you wish to view and then you need to know what questions to ask when doing so.

1. Are there any visits planned outside of the care home?

Activities don’t just happen in the home – some care homes offer regular days out for residents. Taking residents to places like the seaside or to the local park are great opportunities to reminisce, create new memories together, and most importantly provide them with a sense of freedom and fun.

Don’t worry if your loved one requires extra support or has dementia – some organisations can arrange transport, outings, and staff to provide one-to-care care, so your relative or elderly friend can still reap the rewards of a fun day out.

2. What care is available at night in a care home?

Care homes provide 24-hour, round-the-clock support. Night-time is a busy period for care home staff: it’s their responsibility to regularly check on residents, assist with mobility, complete admin work, and get the home ready for the day shift.

When viewing care homes, make sure you ask about how many staff are on shift at night – and any responsibilities they take on during their time. You should also ask about the support available if your elderly loved one requires medical assistance through the night.

3. Are pets allowed in care homes?

If your loved one has a cherished furry companion, thankfully many residential care homes across the UK allow pets to live in the home. Once you’ve found a pet-friendly care home (you can do this via The Cinnamon Trust), the staff will create a support plan with you and your loved one to ensure both needs are met.

This will include a plan for what would happen if you became unwell and you weren’t able to care for your pet anymore. In this case, alternative arrangements would be drawn up and carried out (such as the pet being rehoused with a charity or a family member/friend).

4. How many carers are on duty at any one time?

This is certainly one of the main things to look out for when choosing a care home as it is completely dependent on the care home. For instance, if there are a high proportion of residents who need palliative care, dementia support or round-the-clock medical needs, more staff will be required.

When viewing a care home, make sure you ask about the ratio of the number of staff to any residents, both during the day and at night. Asking questions like these will ensure that you feel comfortable and at ease with the home you’re choosing for your loved one.

5. How often do you change the food menu at the care home?

Everyone deserves a nutritious meal each day. From tasty pies to fish-and-chip Fridays, many care homes offer a range of delicious meals for all residents. When you visit a care home, many managers will share the menu for the week to showcase the types of food they serve.

However, it’s worth checking how frequently they change the menu – some homes change it weekly or fortnightly, for example.

6. Are residents encouraged to do as much for themselves as they can?

Independence is key to helping your loved one maintain a good quality of life. When a care home promotes independence and actively encourages residents to do as much for themselves as they can, residents will feel happy, at ease and it will give them a strong sense of purpose.

Make sure you ask staff on your visit about how they encourage all residents to be as independent as possible. How a care home promotes independence is really important, which is why it is a question in our guide of how to choose a care home.

7. Are there any popular amenities nearby?

If you’re new to the area, it’s worth chatting to the care staff at the visit about what’s nearby. For instance, whether there are any shops, a pub, or a park nearby. Amenities like this close by will make it easier for you to take your loved one for days out.

8. Are chairs arranged in communal areas to encourage residents to chat together?

Be mindful of how communal areas – like the lounge or kitchen – are set up. Making friends is a wonderful part of the care home experience, so you’ll want your elderly loved one to be encouraged to chat to their new neighbours.

When choosing a care home look around to see if the chairs are arranged in groups to encourage talking, or whether they are placed in a circle round the outside of the room. If they are, ask the staff how well the residents catch up together – and how they encourage them to do so.  

9. Can I visit the care home any time?

Most care homes allow visitors into the home whenever – including evenings and weekends. The care home may have times when it prefers you to not visit, for instance at mealtimes, but in any case, you should speak to the manager.

It’s always best to call up before a visit, in-case your elderly loved one is taking part in an activity. Children and young people can bring great joy to anyone living in a home, so the more people who visit, the better!

how much does a care home cost

10. Are residents able to listen to a variety of music when they feel like it?

Living in a care home doesn’t mean you have to lose your independence. All care homes should recognise that everyone is unique and enjoys different things. If your elderly loved one has a particular hobby or music they like, the staff should help them enjoy these things – whenever they like!

Speak to the staff on your visit and ask them what measures they have in place to support residents’ unique hobbies and interests.

There will of course be many more obvious questions to ask when you visit a care home or speak to them.  You can find out more here