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Choosing the right care home for you

Your care home should be a happy and comfortable place to live - in short, it should feel like home. Thinking about what you want and need from a care home is a good place to start.

What should I look for in a care home?

When you find a care home that seems suitable, you can visit it more than once. Find out as much as you can about a care home to help you to make an informed choice.

Before visiting a home, take these key steps:

  1. Make sure the home provides the level of care you need or could need in the future.
  2. Check if the home currently has any vacancies. If it doesn’t, find out how long the waiting list is.
  3. Read the home’s brochure or website before your visit, and call or email the home to speak to the staff or manager.
  4. Read the most recent inspection report for the home. You can ask the home for it, or look for it on the CQC website

What to look for in a care home

What questions should I ask when I'm looking around?

Here are suggestions for a number of things that you might want to find out. Don’t feel you have to ask everything; think about what is most important or relevant to you. Download and print our care home checklist, which includes all of these questions, below.

First impressions
  • Are the buildings and grounds well maintained?
  • Is there an accessible garden or courtyard?
  • Do the home and garden feel inviting?
  • Are there pleasant views surrounding the home?
  • Do the staff seem welcoming?
  • Is the home clean and does it smell fresh?
  • Are the rooms a comfortable temperature?
  • Are the rooms well decorated?

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  • Are friends and family able to get there easily?
  • Are there enough parking spaces at the home?
  • Are facilities such as shops, parks and places of worship within easy reach and accessible?
  • Is there good wheelchair access into and within the building, including wide doorways?

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  • Are staff welcoming and interested?
  • Do the staff get to know about residents’ lives and experiences?
  • Is there a manager in post and a senior member of staff on duty at all times?
  • Is there a suitable ratio of staff to residents during the day, at night and at weekends?
  • Can residents choose if they have a male or female carer?
  • How are staff trained, how often and by whom?
  • Are all staff trained in caring for residents with dementia?
  • Do the staff have care qualifications?
  • Is there a high staff turnover? (If so, this could be a sign of low staff morale)
  • What is the coronavirus and flu vaccination rate amongst staff?

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Meeting care needs
  • Does the home assess new residents’ situations and needs before agreeing to accept them?
  • Do residents have a named member of staff who is particularly responsible for their care?
  • Are residents and their families involved in decisions about their care?
  • Do residents seem to have a similar level of needs as you?
  • If your needs change or increase, can they still be met in the same home?
  • Do the bathroom facilities meet your needs?
  • Are accessible toilets available in all parts of the home and easy to get to?
  • Are residents helped to the toilet, if needed?
  • Do toilets have handrails, raised toilet seats and mobility aids?
  • Is there a policy on when incontinence pads and catheters are used?
  • Does the home link with a specific GP practice for residents?
  • Do health staff such as opticians and chiropodists visit regularly?
  • Who decides when a health check-up is needed?
  • Are there travel arrangements for regular hospital and clinic visits and do staff accompany residents, and is there a charge for this?
  • How does the home support those with sensory impairments or dementia?
  • How does the home let family or friends know if a resident is taken ill?
  • Can the home offer support for end-of-life care?

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Day-to-day considerations
  • What security arrangements are in place to make sure residents are safe?
  • Is there a resident’s call-bell system?
  • Does the home use signs or pictures to show where things are?
  • Can residents choose their routine, such as when they get up and go to bed?
  • Can residents choose what they wear?
  • Can staff ensure that clothes don’t get mixed up between residents?
  • Can residents bring their own furniture and belongings?
  • Is there secure storage in the bedrooms?
  • Are there arrangements for handling personal money?
  • Would you have to share a bathroom or bedroom?
  • Can residents choose whether they have a bath or shower and how often?
  • Is there a mix of female and male residents?

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  • Do residents usually eat together, or can they choose to eat in their rooms?
  • Is there a choice of food and can you see sample menus? 
  • How often does the menu change?
  • Are snacks available during the day or at night?
  • Is food prepared on the premises?
  • Can the home meet your dietary needs?
  • Can residents and visitors make their own drinks?
  • Can residents store food in their room?

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Social life and activities
  • Are residents encouraged to stay active and do as much as they can for themselves? 
  • Is there an activities co-ordinator?
  • Do residents seem happy and occupied?
  • Are there lounges or social areas with furniture arranged to allow small groups to socialise?
  • Are staff sitting and chatting with the residents? 
  • Would you feel comfortable socialising in the home’s common areas? 
  • Do staff read to those with sight impairment?
  • Does the home have its own pets, or can residents bring their own pets?
  • Are there facilities such as: a radio, reading room, TV room, newspapers, books or a mobile library, public phone, shared computers, internet reception and hairdressing services?
  • Are there regular social activities such as: music or singing, reminiscence groups, exercise classes, gardening, celebrations for special occasions and visits from entertainers, and outings to shops, entertainment venues or places of worship?

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Having visitors
  • Are there any restrictions on visiting times or numbers of visitors?
  • Are there facilities for visitors to stay overnight?
  • Are young children welcome?
  • Is there a space for residents to spend time with visitors? 
  • Are visitors able to visit during meal times and can they have meals with residents?

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  • Can you see a copy of the home’s contract and terms and conditions?
  • Can you stay for a trial period?
  • What happens if you're unhappy with the home once they move in?
  • Are valuables covered by the home’s insurance?
  • What are the terms for keeping the room if you have to go into hospital?
  • Are notice conditions to terminate the contract reasonable?

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  • What are the home’s fees?
  • Is it clear how the fees are structured, calculated and collected?
  • Is a deposit or advance payment required?
  • Are fees reviewed each year?
  • If it’s a nursing home, how are NHS-funded nursing care payments accounted for in the fee structure?
  • Are extra items or services not covered by the basic fees clearly identified and accounted for?
  • Are any fees payable after a resident’s death?

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Feedback and complaints
  • Are you encouraged to give feedback?
  • Is the complaints procedure readily available?
  • Are families encouraged to be involved in the life of the home? 
  • Is the manager accessible and approachable?
  • Can staff explain the procedures if there are serious incidents, complaints or safeguarding concerns raised?

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Download our care home checklist

Use our checklist to help you decide questions to ask and things to consider when you're visiting care homes.

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Last updated: Apr 28 2022

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