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Deciding on a care home is a big decision whether you’re doing it yourself or for a loved one.

So where do you start? Well, there are 6 key things you need to think about before making the next steps.

1. Do you actually need to move into a care home?

It may have been suggested, because of an accident or some other event, but it’s not always the right decision.

Is the move because you want it to happen, or because other people are forcing you into it?

Getting advice is important, but you or the person you’re caring for have to make the final decision. Don’t forget, there are other options available.

2. What type of care home do you want?

Not all care homes are the same. Some offer accommodation and help with personal care, such as washing and dressing. Other care homes offer nursing care, as well as the basic help.

Although they’re no longer classed as such, this is the difference between residential homes and nursing homes.

There are also other care homes that offer extra care and support, often due to dementia.

Care homes can be run by private companies, local authorities or voluntary organisations.

3. How to find a care home

Get hold of a list of local homes and visit a few to get an idea of what they’re like. Think of it as like buying a house – you need to get a feel for what’s out there before making a decision. Personal recommendations are also important, so talk to friends or relatives, as they may be able to point you towards a home with a good reputation.

To get hold of a list, try the following:

4. What to look for in a care home

OK, so you’ve got your list of local homes to look at and now you have to choose one.

Make sure you take a friend or relative with you when you’re visiting – second opinions can be vital.

Before you visit, make a list of all the questions you want to ask and all the things you want to look out for – it’s easy to forget things and doing as much research as you can is important.

Also, try to get to talk to current residents. They’re a good barometer of what the life is really like in the home.

>Read our care home checklist

5. How much will it cost?

There’s a lot of difference in care home fees. If the local council is paying, it will set a maximum cost that it's willing to contribute.

This means that, if you find a care home that charges above that level, you may need to find a relative or friend to top up the amount. You aren’t normally able to pay the top-up yourself.

If you have no choice about which home to choose, because the council’s price limit was too low, then the council should pay the extra costs.

If you’re funding the care home costs yourself, it's important to make sure you can afford the fees.

6. Who pays for the care home?

There are a lot of variables that determine who pays for your care home. If you have been assessed and definitely need a place in a care home, the local council carries out a financial assessment to work out how the fees will be paid.

This assessment is based on two things:

  1. Your savings and assets, including your home
  2. Your income

Further information


Our Information guides are short and easy to digest, giving a comprehensive overview of the relevant topic. Factsheets are longer with more detail, and are aimed at professionals.

You can download other guides in our series from publications

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 2081