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The insiders guide to choosing a care home in Dorset

Before you take an elderly relative to look around a potential care home, print off our handy checklist to help you make the right decision.

Arriving at the Home

Were you and they welcomed when you arrived?
Are the furnishings and decorations in good condition?
Is the home fresh, clean and welcoming?

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Does it smell?
Is the outside well maintained and tidy?
Do the residents seem active and content?
If there are visitors there, do they seem comfortable and happy?
Are the residents dressed nicely with clean shoes and neat hair?

Communal Facilities

Are there sitting rooms with and without TV?
Is there a separate dining room?
Are there toilets near the lounge?
Are there separate men’s and women’s toilets?
Are there books, magazines and newspapers available?
Are the gardens attractive and well maintained?
Are the gardens accessible with plenty of places to sit?
Can the residents get involved with the gardening if they wish?

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Life in the Home

Can they make or take phone calls at any time in private?
Are there any rules about going out and returning?
Are there smoking and non-smoking areas?
Is there a residents’ committee?
How involved can residents be in the running of the home?
Is alcohol served or permitted?
Are there facilities to make a cup of tea or a snack?
What arrangements are there for religious observance?

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Can they bring pets to stay or visit?
What are the arrangements for handling their own money?

Accessibility

Are wheelchairs available to borrow?
Are all areas accessible for wheelchairs?
Is there adequate provision for people with sight or hearing loss?

Health

Can they keep their own GP?
Can they continue to administer their own medication if they want to?

Meals

Are special dietary needs catered for?
Can they have meals or snacks in their room?
Can they choose when and where they eat and who they sit with?                                                                                                                                            Are there any self-service snacks available during the day?

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Visitors

Are visitors welcome at all times?
Can visitors stay for meals?
Can visitors stay overnight?
Is there somewhere private where they can talk with their visitors?

Staff

Are the staff friendly and welcoming?
Do the staff chat to the residents? Are they respectful?

Activities

Does the home have its own transport?
Can they get out to the shops or other amenities?
Are escorts available if necessary?
Is there a good range of activities/entertainment organised?
Is there a library service available?
Can they pursue your own hobbies?
Do they have to take part in the activities?

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Bedrooms

Is there a choice of single or shared rooms?
Are the rooms light and attractive, with nice views from the window?
Can they adjust the heating or open a window?
Can they bring their own furniture or personal effects?
Can they re-decorate or re-carpet the room?
Can they have a TV and telephone in their room?
Is there a call button for help or emergencies?
Can they lock your room, or keep valuables locked away?

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Bathrooms

Are the bathrooms en-suite or shared?
Are the baths/showers adapted and bathrooms properly equipped?
Are the bathrooms clean and hygienic?

Personal Care

Can the home meet their personal and cultural needs?
Will they have a nominated carer?
Can they choose when to get up and when to go to bed?
Can they have a bath/shower when they wish?
How can you get involved in your relative’s care?

Information/Your Welcome

Have you/they been offered helpful written information?
Did you/they get a good ‘feel’ about the home?
Have you got experience of checking out care homes? Please go to our forum and tell us how you got on and what your top tips are.