How to find the right care home

How to find the right care home

Moving out of the family home and into a care home is one of the biggest and most stressful decisions any family has to make. But if the right home is found, the move can give a new lease of life to someone who has been struggling to cope at home – and peace of mind for the whole family.

Before making the decision to move into care, it’s essential to establish if this is the best thing for everyone involved. Ask your local Social Services for an assessment as there can be many options for remaining at home with adaptations and carers in place.

If you do decide on a care home, ask your GP what kind of place is right for you or your relative’s needs. Some offer accommodation and help with personal care and support, others offer nursing care too and some specialise in care for those with dementia or other illnesses.

It’s best to do careful research and make several visits before taking any decisions. Searching for the right home is time-consuming, but a website search can help – has details on 49,106 care homes in the UK. Don’t forget to check the latest inspection report for the home you visit on the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website before you go. Visit or call 0300 061 6161.

When you get to the home don’t be at all embarrassed about asking lots of questions – do as much research as you can. If possible, speak to people who already live in the home. This will give you an idea of what life is really like there. Watch how the staff members deal with the residents in the home – are they spending time with them or rushing about? Is there a funny smell? Is there outside space? What is the atmosphere like?

Some homes may invite the person looking to move to spend a day or a few nights there, which is a really good idea for helping to get an inside view ofthe place. Take a full checklist with you when you visit a home so that you don’t forget to ask any of your questions. You may also like to ask the following:

  • Can residents take any personal possessions with them such as pictures, plants or furniture?
  • Are residents’ own wishes always taken into consideration – when they get up and go to bed for example?
  • What activities are on offer? 
  • Are visitors welcome at any time?
  • Can residents choose when and where they will eat?
  • Can residents have their own telephone?
  • Is there a quiet lounge with no TV?
  • Does the home offer religious services?
  • Can residents keep their own GP and dentist?
  • Are there smoking/non-smoking areas?
  • Do you have to pay for toiletries, hairdressing or chiropody? 

Paying for care

  • Anyone who has more than £23,250 in capital will be expected to pay for accommodation and personal care in a home. This is the capital limit in England in 2015/16.
  • If you pay for your own care, you can choose your accommodation.
  • From April 2016, new rules will come into place regarding paying for care. A lifetime care cost cap (£72,000 in 2016) will come into force. The state will meet the cost of eligible social care needs above that cap and it will be reviewed every five years.
  • However, this will exclude a daily living cost charge for residential care – £230 per week in 2016 – which will be paid by those who can afford it.
  • Since April 2015, local authorities have a duty to assess people’s care needs – contact them through your local Social Services department. They will be able to tell you if you are eligible for Social Services help.
  • If you own your own home, it may be counted as capital after 12 weeks if you move into residential care, however it can’t be counted if your husband, wife, civil partner, or anyone aged over 60 or who is disabled lives there.
  • It’s always best to seek independent financial advice about care costs.

Keeping your loved ones safe in care

We’ve all read the horror stories and headlines in the media about poor care in some homes. Fortunately, incidences of abuse and neglect are rare and most homes offer good, professional care.
However, families do worry about what happens to their vulnerable loved ones when they are not around.

The most important thing to do is to establish a good relationship with the management and staff. Relatives should feel comfortable calling unannounced at the home at any time.

All homes are obliged to give residents printed information about how a complaint can be made and every good home manager should have an open-door policy where residents and relatives can raise any issues.

If you have any worries at all about the standard of care being given, or any other issues, raise them in writing straight away with the care home management and ask for a full and prompt written reply.

Help with making a decision

Where to go to find out more information...

  • Find Me Good Care – the social care institute for excellence:
  • The Good Care Guide– which enables people to find, rate and review care:
  • Carers UK has information on all aspects of caring. Call the advice line, 0808 808 7777,
  • Age UK has a section on finding a care home with its ‘Find the right care home’ booklet. Call the advice line, 0800 169 6565, or download it from Age UK also produces a printable checklist which you can take with you when visiting a care home.
  • There's more carers' advice and stories in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.