It’s never easy to know when the time has come to move an elderly relative into a residential care home. An ageing population means that more of us than ever are juggling a busy family life with looking after elderly parents, and there are more care homes than ever offering to look after our loved ones. So, what should you be looking for when on a visit to a care home?


Types of Care

The types of accommodation you look at will depend on the needs of the individual person. Someone who is a little frail and would benefit from having someone on-call to help if needed could be suited to a sheltered housing set-up. Someone with more complex nursing needs or who isn’t able to feed or dress themselves might be better in a nursing home with trained staff on duty around the clock. Be honest with yourself and with your relative about their abilities, and take medical advice if required about the possible progression of any illness. Moving home later in life can be a huge upheaval, so it’s important to get it right and not have to consider another move six months down the line when circumstances have changed.


Visiting Care Homes

Once you’ve shortlisted a few different care homes which you feel meet the needs of your relative, arrange to go for a visit, taking your relative with you. Don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions as you look around the facilities. When are relatives allowed to visit? Are residents allowed to keep pets? What’s the staff to patient ratio? Are all staff experienced in geriatric care and fully DBS checked? Any good care home will be more than happy to answer all your questions, show you a copy of any contract you’ll be asked to sign, and explain terms and conditions.


Inspection Reports

Although they’re never a substitute for getting into a home and looking around, all care homes in the UK are registered and inspected regularly. In England and Wales this is done by the Care Quality Commission, in Scotland by the Care Inspectorate, and in Wales by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate. Each of these bodies has a website where you can search by home and read inspection reports. This gives a clue to what’s going on behind the scenes and could flag up issues such as under-staffing, or reliance on agency staff. Care homes are graded in the same way as other establishments. Remember though that the situation can change very quickly either for better or worse – a glowing report issued a year ago may no longer be a true reflection of the situation.


Paying The Fees

Care Homes are expensive. Sheltered housing is cheaper than residential care, but a nursing home place can easily cost £40,000 per year. Get advice on Benefits, savings and ways of funding your relative’s care, bearing in mind they could be in the home you’ve chosen for many years.