Questions to ask when choosing a care home
If you're choosing a residential care home for a relative, here are some useful things to consider and questions to ask.
It helps to write down a few questions, so you get all the information you need to choose a care home
When the time comes to consider a care home for a loved one, it's important to have the right information to help you make the right choice.
Here are some key points to think about and questions to ask yourself or staff when viewing residential care homes.
- Visit a number of homes before making a final choice. Spend enough time at the home to get a good idea of what it is like
- Ask to see a recent inspection report for the home. These often give a lot of detail on how the home operates.
- Visit the home with the person who needs the care to see what their reactions are and how they might settle in.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions and take a checklist of things you want to find out.
- First impressions are important: are you greeted in a friendly way when you arrive? Is it clean and pleasantly decorated and furnished? Are there any unpleasant smells?
- Do residents appear happy and responsive?
- Are they properly dressed and well-groomed?
- Do they seem alert and interested?
- Are they involved in activities or chatting?
- Are they encouraged to do as much for themselves as they can?
- Will be easy for visitors to get to the home and are there shops, a pub or a park nearby?
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- Check whether corridors and toilets are wide enough for a walking frame or wheelchair and there are suitably adapted toilets and baths.
- Are single rooms available and are residents encouraged to bring in some of their own furniture and possessions?
- Are the bedrooms bright and pleasant?
- Can residents go to their rooms when they wish to be alone? Do staff respect the right to privacy and knock on bedroom doors?
- Check whether there are enough toilets within easy reach of the bedrooms and living areas.
- Are staff are trained to spot the signs when someone needs to go to the toilet?
- Find out whether staff are cheerful and tactful about helping residents use the toilet and changing them if they are incontinent.
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- Are chairs arranged in groups to encourage talking rather than placed in a circle round the outside of the room?
- Is there a TV or radio left on when no one is watching or listening?
- Is there more than one room where residents can sit or where they can be quiet or see visitors?
- Is there a garden where residents can walk safely? Research from the University of Warwick has shown that poor access to gardens or outdoor space is significantly associated with symptoms of depression.
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- Ensure that there is good communication between relatives and the home and that phone calls and visits are encouraged.
- Are visitors welcomed at any time? Are they encouraged to take residents out or join them for a meal?
- Are there opportunities for residents to help staff with small tasks if they wish? Are activities available each day or are residents left to sit in front of the TV?
- Are trips and outings organised and special events celebrated?
- Are residents encouraged to take exercise? Are residents able to choose and listen to a variety of music when they feel like it?
The right staff
- Do staff seem friendly and caring towards residents or talk to them while they are helping them with physical tasks, such as washing and dressing?
- Do they make time to sit and chat to residents or talk to them while they are helping them with physical tasks, such as washing and dressing?
- Do they have any training and experience in dementia care?
- Do they know about residents' backgrounds, habits and interests?
- Does the manager have a friendly manner with staff and residents?
- Do they answer your questions openly and seem to understand your concerns?
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- Check what happens if residents are unwell or need medication. Can a relative stay overnight if necessary when a resident is unwell and are changes in medication discussed with the family carers?
Planning the move
- Is there a full assessment at home before a resident is admitted?
- Is the carer consulted about the care plan and about any proposed changes to it?
- If arranging a home independently get a contract with the home or a statement in writing. Seek advice from a solicitor or citizens advice bureau before signing any agreement.
- Be clear about: what is included in the weekly fee, what may be charged as 'extras' and how much notice is given if fees are raised?
- What happens if a resident's condition deteriorates – can they remain in the home and if not, how are alternative arrangements made?
For more tips and useful information, browse our care articles
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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.