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How to choose the right care home: A guide

Choosing the right care home for a loved one can be one of the most emotional and onerous things you have to do in life, especially when you start to feel stressed it can be harder to make decisions. However, emotions do and should play a part in the decision process. Whilst you give yourself time to reflect on your choice, we have put together a guide for you to read through and consider before you make a decision.

What are the different types of care homes?

When you are searching for a care home you’ll come across various types of care homes with different types of care and facilities. The main two types of care homes are residential and nursing homes.

Residential homes

Residential care homes offer a safe place for young adults or older people as an alternative to their own home or family home. The size of a care home can vary greatly. A care home can be small, offering residential care to just one or two people, whereas larger homes offer care to several hundred residents. The residents do not need 24-hour nursing care (it is worth noting that residential care homes residential homes aren’t medical facilities), but they do need residential support and help. The care home can provide assistance with daily activities such as eating, dressing and bathing. The care can be:

  • Long term 
  • Short term  
  • For an emergency situation
  • Palliative 

Care is offered to those who have care needs such as:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Physical disabilities 
  • Alcohol/drug dependence 
  • Mental health issues

For young people in residential care, the home offers a place where they can make friends. They can also learn important life skills such as cooking or cleaning so that they can become more independent (while in a safe environment).

Residential homes should be happy places to live. There are usually regular trips out, social events and the residents are very much part of the local community. Entertainers, singers, bands and other musicians will often come and amuse the residents.

Large residential homes will frequently have on-site amenities like a cafe, lounge areas, games room, hairdressers, gardens and a bus stop or service to local shops.

Take a look at The Fremantle Trust’s Residential Homes.

Nursing homes

Both residential care homes and nursing homes offer care and support 24/7, however the nursing home is able to provide a higher level of care. Nursing homes are for residents who need medical care from a qualified nurse.

In a nursing home, all residents will need some form of nursing care such as wound care or administration of intravenous medication. Examples of residents in a nursing home might include those who suffer from long-term conditions, such as someone who needs an artificial feeding (using a PEG tube), or a person who has suffered from a stroke and needs rehabilitative care. Palliative care can also be administered in a nursing home.

Nursing homes vary in size, from small homes catering for a few residents to large homes where some homes cater for several hundred residents. 

Just like residential care homes, nursing homes organise entertainment and social activities for their residents.

The Care Quality Commission inspect and rate residential and nursing homes, so you can be sure that the home you choose has the highest standard of care

Take a look at The Fremantle Trust’s Nursing Homes in Buckinghamshire.

What about care homes for specific care needs?

Specialist care facilities within residential and nursing homes can be offered to look after those who might also be living with other complex issues. These issues can include limited awareness (such as dementia), limb spasticity and those who require continual specialist treatment such as epilepsy. More complex medical support will be required in a care home with requirements such as:

  • Highly specialist equipment
  • 24-hour postural management
  • Artificial feeding (a PEG tube) 
  • Tracheostomy care

The nurses will have specialist skills to make sure that the care is inclusive and that all residents are treated with the care that they need 24-hours a day. 

Purpose-built dementia care homes are available and designed to be easy to get around for people living with dementia. These homes are reassuring for both the resident and their family; adapted to be safe with an extra understanding about the nature of dementia and how frightening it can be for the person. 

What to look for when choosing a care home

Before visiting a home, take a look at this checklist. It’s easy to forget what to look out for, especially if you are feeling nervous or emotional:

✔  First impressions count — are you warmly greeted? Are the staff friendly? Is it clean? Listen to your gut instinct.

✔  Think about the type of care home that would suit your relative. Would they want somewhere spiritual? Family-orientated? Large and bustling or small and quiet? With a garden or animals? Priorities are personal. 

✔  Everyone is different! Make sure peoples’ personal preferences are catered for so that they feel valued and respected.

✔  Ensure that care staff meet regularly with medical experts such as GPS, pharmacists, therapists and nurses and not just when there is a problem.

✔  A realistic, but positive vibe, changing the sombre narrative that care homes can be victim to.

✔  Make sure that staff choose to spend time with the residents (i.e. not just when required to do something). Do the staff look happy? 

✔  Make sure that the staff have received recent training and have the relevant qualifications.

✔  Ensure that the home has links to the local community and can show a vibrant and sociable culture.

✔  Check whether the care home is up to date on new research to continually improve their care.

Things to consider when choosing a new care home

Each care home offers something very different to the next. While they may deliver similar levels of care, they may not cater to your more niche requirements. So, before choosing a care home, it’s essential to make a list of all the things you want from your home that will make you feel right at home. This is not an exhaustive list but here are some of the most important aspects to consider:

  • Cost: what costs are covered, and what are you expected to pay extra for?
  • Location: how close is the home away from your friends and family, and are there local amenities such as shops, cafes and local villages nearby? 
  • Facilities: what sort of amenities can you expect to find in the home - cafes, salons, bars, shops and gardens? 
  • Level of care: the home you choose must be able to provide the level of care you need right now, as well as the level you may need should your health worsen. 
  • Room customisation: will the home allow you to decorate your room how you want, and what are the rules for bringing your own furniture? 
  • Pet friendly: will your furry friend be allowed to come with you or at least be able to visit you?
  • Accessibility: is the home well-suited to those with mobility issues? Do they have ramps, lifts, and widened doorways?
  • Visiting hours: are your family and friends allowed to visit when they want, or are there certain times and days that they must follow?
  • Food: will the home support any dietary requirements you may have?

Whatever you need or require from your home of choice, make sure to note it down and ask a member of staff whether they can accommodate this during your visit.

What questions to ask when choosing a care home 

There are so many questions you may want to ask regarding needs and reassurance, so note down any questions you have as they come up. Here are some to get you started:

  • When can I visit?
  • What’s the resident/staff ratio?
  • What is provided in their room? 
  • What happens if they become ill?
  • Does the home allow pets?
  • What’s included in the fee and what is an additional cost? 
  • How are snacks and drinks provided?
  • How often do they go outside for fresh air?
  • What’s the notice period?
  • What activities are offered?

Understand your funding options

If you have less than £23,250 in savings you might be eligible for the local council to pay towards the cost of your care. Your local council will calculate how much you have to contribute towards the total cost of care if you are eligible for funding. They do this via a means test. The council ensures that the overall cost figure it works out is enough to meet the cost of a suitable care home.

The NHS pay and arrange for your healthcare if your needs are health-based and you are eligible for NHS continuing healthcare (NHS CHC). If you need nursing care, but you don’t meet the requirements for NHS CHC, then the NHS will pay a contribution towards the cost of your nursing home called NHS-funded nursing care (NHS FNC).

Visit prospective care homes 

Make a list of local care homes and arrange visits to get the best idea of what they are like. Ask friends and family if they have any local recommendations. Which? has a handy online directory of care homes. 

Don’t forget that you can visit the same care home more than once if you are still making a decision. 

The Fremantle Trust includes nursing homesresidential homes and supported living schemes across Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Berkshire, Hertfordshire and Milton Keynes. 

If you would like further information or to arrange a visit about the homes within The Fremantle Trust contact us or call 0333 005 8735.

We have care homes located across the Buckinghamshire county. Learn more about care homes nearest to you:
Care home Aylesbury
Care home Princes Risborough
Care home Chalfont St Peter
Care home Amersham
Care homes Slough
Care home Chesham
Care home Stoke
Burnham care homes
Care homes High Wycombe
Care homes Marlow