Questions to ask yourself when choosing care

17 April 2018

Choosing care can be one of life’s most stressful decisions, but you can be more care aware by asking yourself these questions before making a decision.

Choosing care for yourself or a loved one can be one of life’s most stressful decisions. In fact, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) recently found that 70% of people in England who have chosen care ranked it as one of the most stressful life decisions they have ever had to make.

For this reason, we launched our new #CareAware campaign to raise awareness of the importance of this decision and to support those embarking on this difficult journey. Whatever type of care you choose, your experience should be a positive one. CQC monitors, inspects and regulates residential care homes, nursing homes and home care agencies and publish what we find, including ratings. If you are thinking about or in the process of choosing care, our inspection reports and ratings to help you make an informed decision.

As part of our Care Aware campaign, we put together these handy pointers on questions to ask yourself before making your decision.

Can I plan ahead and avoid making a rushed decision?

Many people avoid thinking about nursing or residential care until something unexpected happens, which often leads to having to make a rushed decision. This can be stressful and could mean you don’t make the most considered choice. Start early and think about what is important so that you can agree priorities. For example, if your loved one has a medical condition like dementia, you may be more interested in the specialist care facilities at the care home, than the geographical location.

Know what your priorities are and make a list, check out the latest CQC reports and ratings of homes in your area using the map on the CQC website. Our inspectors rate all care homes, either outstanding, good, requires improvement or inadequate. You can also seek help and advice from your GP or your local council or social services department.

Do I need a care home at all?

Receiving care at home is becoming an increasingly popular option for many older people. Realising that you or a loved one require care and support can be a distressing and difficult time for all involved and the idea of residential care can be daunting. In fact, our latest research found that 70% of people found choosing care to be one of life’s most stressful life decisions compared to other life events, such as choosing their child’s school or getting married.

Have I visited the care home? 

Having sought advice from the CQC website and other sources such as speaking to your GP and social service department and charity organisations - it is important that you visit the care homes you have shortlisted in person. Even if you don’t have much spare time, this always pays off as it gives you the opportunity to get a feel for the place before you make the big decision.

In our recent survey 72% of people found visiting the care home the most influential factor when choosing a service. To get a real sense of the home, think about doing a ‘spot check’ and dropping in unannounced for a visit. In the best care homes, the staff will welcome you and be keen to show you around even if you turn up without prior warning, as they will be proud of the level of care they are providing around the clock.

How do the staff engage the residents?

When visiting the home, pay attention to the level of rapport the staff have with the residents. By spending just a few minutes in a care home, it quickly becomes clear the importance of warm, friendly and capable staff. When leaving your loved-one in the care of someone else, it is vitally important to feel comfortable with the team you are entrusting with their care. 

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Have all my questions been answered?

Before the visit, prepare a list of questions you would like to ask so you don’t forget something important. You can look for inspiration about what questions to ask on our campaign website, or using the helpful content from Age UK and Which?. Make sure you talk with the manager – the way the care home is run has a crucial impact on people’s lives. Also, do ask the residents and the visitors to give you their honest opinion of the home – as visitors (residents' friends and relatives) especially, they will be able to provide you with a good picture of what the home is like.

What is my gut feeling?

When looking for a care home it is important to trust your gut instinct. Even if you are in a hurry to find somewhere, never choose somewhere that just doesn’t feel right.

You should stay tuned in to your instincts even after you have placed your loved one in care. You don’t have to stick by your original decision. There are signs that you can look out for that may indicate a problem:

• Have your concerns been responded to in a timely and professional way?

• If your family member or friend has had a fall or accident, what is being done to manage the risk of that happening again?

• Has your loved one’s mood or behaviour changed for the worse? If so, does their care plan reflect how staff need to respond?

If you are concerned about the safety of someone receiving care, please speak to the manager. You can also contact social services at your local county or unitary council. If you feel a crime may have been committed, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the police.

Would I be happy for my loved one to live here?

This is the most important question for the inspectors at the Care Quality Commission. We inspect and rate residential care, nursing homes and home care agencies in England and we want to know: does it pass the ‘mum test’? We want to make sure that people receive care that is safe, high-quality and compassionate. The best care homes support people to have a life, not just a service, so look for somewhere that helps their residents to do just that.

For more information on the #CareAware campaign and to download our free inspection reports, please visit the CQC website.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.