This section contains information on choosing a care home, including:
- When to start thinking about care homes
- Where do I start?
- Useful questions to ask
- What's the first step?
- Can I choose the home I want?
When to start thinking about care homes
Many people have to make a decision about a care home in a crisis, perhaps after a fall or illness, or the death of a carer. Looking back they often wish they'd had longer to look around. So if you think you or a relative might need a care home in the future, it's a good idea to do some planning now, so that you'll know what to do should the need arise.
Where do I start?
To decide which homes to visit, it may be useful to speak to:
- Friends and relatives, for their recommendations
- Your GP
- Your local Social Services department, which should be able to provide a list of registered homes in your area
- The Elderly Accommodation Counsel (0207 820 1343) for lists of homes in most areas
- The Independent Healthcare Association (0207 793 4620) for a list of its members
- The Registered Nursing Home Association (0121 454 2511) for a list of registered nursing homes
- Choosing care for a relative can be a difficult and emotional decision.
- The Relatives' and Residents' Association can offer advice and support (0207 916 6055).
In many ways, choosing a care home is like choosing any other place to live - within a few seconds you know whether it 'feels right'.
To help you make a decision, we've produced a checklist of useful questions. Click here to download.
You can print it out as many times as you need, so that as you visit homes you can be sure you've asked all those practical questions that are important to support your first impressions.
What's the first step?
If you'll be paying all the care home's fees, you can contact homes directly yourself. Once you have found a home you like, the home will make an assessment of your needs, so that they can be sure they can offer you the right kind of care.
If you will be asking the local authority to help with all or part of the fees, you should speak first to your GP and your local Social Services department. They will carry out an assessment of your needs, and produce a report called a care plan that outlines the care, including any nursing care, they think you need.
Can I choose the home I want?
Many people think that care homes in the independent sector are only for the wealthy. You may be surprised to know that the majority of care homes in the UK are owned by the independent sector, and that 70 per cent of residents have their fees paid partly or wholly by their local authority. This is also true of Priority Care Group homes.
If you are paying all the fees yourself, you can choose whichever home you find suitable for your needs in your price range (see Types of care for more information on the different types of homes and the care they offer).
If your local authority is assisting with funding, it doesn't mean you have to choose one of their homes. You can request any home that accepts residents funded by the local authority. However, the local authority will want to be sure that the home is suitable for your needs and doesn't cost more than it would usually pay for that type of care. If you want a more expensive home than the authority is willing to pay for, you are allowed to 'top up' their contribution from another source (see Paying for care section.)