Choosing A Care Home: Everything You Should Know

carer choosing a care home

Watching people you love growing older can be hard, and approaching them about choosing a care home can be even harder.

No matter how difficult it gets, doing what is best for your loved one should be a priority. If you are unable to provide the right care or they can no longer live independently, beginning to look into care homes may be what is best for them in the long run. With around 17,600 care homes in the UK, choosing the right place for them to live can be tough[i]. To help you make this difficult decision, we’ve put together this guide on choosing a care home that will suit them, with advice on talking to your loved one about the move, fees, and care home alternatives.

When Is The Right Time For Someone To Move Into A Care Home?

There is no universal ‘right time’ for any one person to start looking into and choosing a care home. However, there are several signs that can help you or your loved one decide that it’s the right decision. You should take some time to consider the following?[ii]

  • Are daily tasks becoming tricky? Can they cook, clean, dress and wash comfortably?
  • Are family members unable to provide the level of care that they need?
  • Is their home adapted to their needs?
  • Are they beginning to find the day-to-day running of their home stressful and unmanageable?
  • Are you worried for their general health and safety?

It’s a difficult decision to make, so don’t feel you have to figure out what to do by yourself. You can request a social care needs assessment through your local council, who will conduct a full review and recommend the best care options moving forwards.

Find out more about needs assessments here.

Apply for a needs assessment here.

What Do Care Homes Provide?

Care homes offer supervised accommodation for the elderly or disabled, and provide personal, specified care and support in their daily lives. There are staff on hand 24/7 that will assist with dressing, washing, eating, going to the bathroom and taking the correct medications. Care homes will also provide recreational time and the equipment for residents to explore their hobbies, and some also offer day trips and outings for their residents.

There are different types of care homes which provide different levels of care – familiarise yourself with these and understand the differences[iii].

Care HomesProvide residents with personal care
Nursing HomesProvide residents with personal care and assistance from qualified nurses on duty 24/7
Care Homes with Dementia CareProvide personal care, assistance and safety care to people suffering with dementia
Dual-Registered Care HomesProvides personal care to someone who will eventually need nursing care. These homes can offer both personal care and nursing care services, so ensure the person won’t have to move elsewhere as their needs increase

Who Pays For Care Homes?

Expenses will vary for residency in a care home, and they are dependent on your financial circumstances, the home itself, and its location, though the average costs are around £600 a week for a care home and £800 a week for a nursing home[iv].

How you will pay for your care depends on your capital. This is dictated by income, pension, benefits, savings and any property. A financial assessment, or means test, will decide your capital. Learn how this works below[v].

  • If your capital is over £23,250, you must pay full fees for your care. This is known as self-funding.
  • If your capital is between £14,250 and £23,250, you contribute some money towards your care as dictated by the means test, plus a ‘tariff’ income based on your capital. The remaining costs will be covered by the council.
  • If your capital is less than £14,250, you will not have to pay a tariff but will pay from any income included in your means test. The remaining costs will be covered by the council.

NHS Funding

In some circumstances, the NHS will handle the fees for residency and care. If your loved one is living with complex health needs or is expected to live out their last days in hospital, the NHS may move them to a care home that will be most beneficial and cover the cost. There are two funding groups that cover NHS care:

Outside of assistance with care funding, you can seek NHS funding for medical supplies such as incontinence products. This may be useful to loved ones who receive at-home care.

How To Choose A Care Home

Choosing a care home should not be a rushed decision, and it’s essential that you and your loved one are both completely happy with the final choice. If your loved one is funding their own care, then the choice is completely up to them. However, local authorities generally provide a choice of care homes they are willing to pay for that will meet your loved one’s requirements. So, evaluate every option before making the final decision.

1)    Do Your Research

To find out more about each care home that your loved one is interested in, you could:

  • View their website
  • Phone them
  • Request a brochure
  • Have a tour
  • Request a temporary stay

When researching, look for the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating[vi]. This organisation regulates all of England’s health and social care for adults and inspects and reviews care homes.

2)    Know What To Look For

When researching and viewing care homes, make sure you take note of:

  • Whether they will be able to provide the right level of care
  • If there are any vacancies, or how long the waiting list is
  • Their latest inspection reports
  • Whether friends and family could get there easily to visit
  • How residents talk about the home, and any online reviews
  • How the staff treat you and their residents
  • What the food menus are like
  • How well maintained the building and grounds are

3)    Signs Of A Good Care Home

Several signs symbolise a successful care home that will be beneficial to your loved one. Look for:

  • Staff with correct skills, experience and qualifications
  • Clean buildings, grounds, rooms and facilities
  • Indoor and outdoor activities offered to residents
  • Good quality food options
  • Easy access to health professionals
  • Cultural, religious and lifestyle needs being met
  • Feedback from residents being understood and implemented

Care Home Alternatives

If your loved one is uneasy about going into a care home, there are several alternatives that could be just as suited to their needs. Remember, you shouldn’t make a decision until you have received a care needs assessment.

  • Live-In Care – A full-time carer will move in with your loved one and provide 24/7 care. They will do everything from cooking and cleaning to assisting with maintaining personal hygiene
  • Moving In with Family – Moving a loved one from their home to yours or another relative’s is good if someone will be at home throughout the day
  • Sheltered Housing – Your loved one can buy or rent a small apartment in a supervised block. This allows them the freedom of living alone with care on hand if necessary.
  • Retirement Village – Supervised housing developments for the elderly – similar to sheltered housing, but is a community rather than a block of flats

Talking To A Loved One About Moving Into A Care Home

Talking to a loved one about choosing a care home isn’t easy for you or them. It’s natural for you to feel guilty, helpless, and to worry about them taking offense – they may feel relieved at the option being presented to them, or express feeling uneasy about the decision. There are a few steps you can take that will lessen the blow to your loved one, making the conversation easier for everyone involved:

1)    Discuss It Early On

It’s best to begin discussing care homes hypothetically before your loved one gets to the stage where they need one. This can begin a developing discussion that involves the whole family and ensures that your loved one receives their preferred care when the eventuality does come up. For diseases like Alzheimer’s, people likely won’t be able to identify that they need the assistance of a care home. This makes an early discussion more essential.

2)    Communicate Effectively

If you think your loved one is already at the stage of requiring a care home and you haven’t started the discussion early, here are some tips on making that conversation a little less daunting.

  • Approach your loved one in a quiet, familiar place without any background noise where they are comfortable
  • Sit face-to-face with your loved one, so they can see your expressions and you can see theirs
  • Speak clearly and slowly, using short sentences, simple language and regular pauses to allow your loved one space to react and respond

It’s normal for a conversation such as this to spark emotions. If your loved one becomes angry, or upset, make sure to validate their feelings and give them space if needed.

3)    Involve Them In The Process

Your loved one is the person who will be living in the care home. So, it’s vital that they have complete input on where that will be and the care they will get. So involve them in every step of the process, and, where possible, take them on care home tours with you, show them websites and brochures, and encourage them to talk with their friends about recommendations.

4)    Be Positive

It’s natural for people to take offence at the proposition of a care home because it suggests handing in one’s freedom and taking up residence away from family and friends until the end of their lives. On the contrary, a care home is a place that provides them with constant care and support, where carers will encourage them to continue living their lives in a safer environment. For example, many care residents are encouraged to try new activities, get outside, meet new friends, and go on day trips provided by the home. Since staff will take care of cleaning and housework, there will be plenty of time for your loved one to explore what they love, so try and instil these positive notions into your conversations.

5)    Give Them Time To Process

You shouldn’t take choosing a care home lightly, or put pressure on your loved one to rush their final choice. Give them time to process the discussion you have had with them and to get involved in the decision to make the transition smoother for everyone.

See our guide to communicating with elderly family members here.

Choosing a care home for someone you love may be difficult. However if you are considerate and thorough with your research, you can be secure in the fact that they will be safe, happy and cared for properly. It may take some time, but hopefully your loved one will settle in their new home, knowing that they’re where they need to be and they have a loving family behind them.








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