How to Find the Right Care Home?

Deciding to move yourself or a loved one into permanent residential care is often a difficult decision fraught with practical considerations and emotional pressures. We find that all too often the decision to move into a care or nursing home has to be made in a pressured or crisis situation e.g. when sudden illness or injury means needs increase significantly, on discharge from hospital when you are under pressure to act quickly or when an event highlights that you or your loved one are not safe at home. So whilst this article is not about how to decide if or when you may need to find a care home, but rather how to find the right one, we do advise all our service-users and families that if you think you may need to find permanent residential care for yourself or someone you care for at any point in the future, do the work and choose your preferred home sooner rather than later. Once you have identified the home that you would use if you needed to, you can park the decision and have the peace of mind to know that if an emergency or crisis arose you’re prepared and armed with the decision you have already made and don’t need to worry about doing so at a difficult time.

Below are our top tips for finding the right care home for you, based on the collective experience and feedback of our team, clients and families and the health and social care professionals we work with.

1. Visit as many homes as possible – This will give you vital confidence and context when it comes to making a final decision. Even if you think the first place you see is great, still visit as many as you can even if it just supports your original decision. If you can confidently make a fully informed choice the whole transition and experience will be much more positive for everyone. This is a decision you want to make only once so make it a good, well-informed one.

2. What is important to you? – Before you start visiting write your own checklist of what are your non-negotiable requirements, what are your preferences and what are absolute no-nos, to enable you to compare and consider the homes you visit (see also “Questions you should ask” below)

3. Seek recommendations – A personal recommendation from someone living in a home or someone with a loved one in a home, is always going to be a much more realistic reflection of that home and the experience of living there than any brochure or visits. Some GPs, Social Workers or other health and social care professionals may also recommend places you should consider (and maybe any to steer clear of) based on their own work with a whole range of residential care settings and the experiences of their patients.

4. Visit, visit and visit again – You are looking for a home, somewhere to live and be cared for and become part of the community – this is a big decision. If you were buying a house for your family would a brochure or one quick visit be enough? Visit unannounced the first time – any good home will be happy for you to do so, then if you are happy with what you see make an appointment for a more in depth visit. Speak to management, staff, residents and any visitors. Make sure you have prepared a list of all the questions you have before you go…

5. Don’t be embarrassed about asking lots of questions – this has to be a confident, informed decision and you want it to be the right decision first time. To achieve this you need to be armed with all relevant information. So what questions might you want to ask…

Questions to Ask

  • Can you see the lastest Care Quality Commission inspection report? NB: This should be displayed on the home’s website and in the home and all inspection reports can be viewed in full at Also ask to see the Statement of Purpose which details the aims and objectives of the organisation, detailed of registered managers, complaints procedures and other key information.
  • What exactly will your fees cover? What extra costs could you be expected to pay for e.g. would you be expected to pay for your own continence products, toiletries, special dietary requirements?
  • What if your needs changed and you required more care? Could the home continue to care for you or would you be expected to move?
  • Is your place secure, could you be asked to leave at short notice?
  • What would happen if the home were to close or change ownership?
  • What are the arrangements for any review of fees? Within what time and monetary range could fees be increased?
  • How are complaints or issues resolved? Are there residents’ and relatives’ groups?
  • What activities, entertainments or social events take place? How regularly and is this at any additional cost?
  • Are visitors welcome anytime? (This is usual as this is your home) Or are there set visiting times?
  • Are you able to get up and go to bed at the times you choose?
  • What are arrangements for mealtimes? Will you have a choice of appropriate meals and can you choose where and when you eat?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • Is there a garden? Can you have your own area of the garden to grow things if you wish?
  • What is the smoking policy?

This is by no means an exhaustive list and not all of the above will be relevant to your own circumstances. Do put together your own list of questions before you start your visits and be comfortable to ask everything you need to know.

For further information about choosing the right care home we have found the book Finding the Right Care Home by Rosemary Hurtley and Julia Burton-Jones to be a particularly helpful, comprehensive and user-friendly guide. Age UK also offer informed and impartial advice on all aspects of thinking about residential care from how to find the right home to how to pay for it.


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