Star columnist, Donna Pierrepont - How to choose a care home

Donna Pierpoint
Donna Pierpoint
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Choosing a care home for a person you love – very possibly a parent who looked after you and brought you up – is one of the most difficult decisions you can ever face.

Where do you start? Looking for a care home is normally only done as a last resort – when a person can no longer be cared for at home and all other options are exhausted.

It can be a very stressful time and it’s likely the relative in question will be very anti the move.

There’s little doubt that reputation and word-of- mouth recommendation are still one of the best ways of getting a steer. Ask around. Think about who you know that has a friend or relative in a care home. Would they recommend it?

Check a home’s website and check for any independent reviews – that will give you a good feel for the place.

Look what services a home offers. Does it have everything your relative will need both now and in the future?

Can you get to it easily? Is it on a bus route if you’re using public transport?

The website is a very good resource and guide to what’s out there. Check that and try to draw up a short list of no more than three.

Visiting care homes can be tiring and draining – try not to have to visit too many. Do your research before.

Don’t make an appointment – turn up unannounced. It’s the only way to know what a place is really like.

Try and visit in office hours – that way you’ll have more chance of getting all the information you need as all the staff and management will be in.

Make a note of what the atmosphere is like. Do the staff smile, is there laughter?

What’s the odour like? A care home shouldn’t have a general odour – if there’s an unpleasant odour, they’re not doing things right.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Take a list of pre-prepared questions with you.

Care Quality Commission (CQC) reports are a good measure of standards but, remember, they only reflect a single day and might not be representative of the home when you visit.

Care UK also provide handy advice and checklists: Age UK Finding a care home