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How do I choose a care home, what questions should I ask?

Once you have decided on the type of care home you need, where your funding is coming from and what your budget will be, and the area you wish to live in, it will be much easier to narrow your search and select a short list.   

From this short list you can request a brochure from the care home and enquire about cost and availability.  Look at care home reviews on established care home websites as well as the care home website itself.  Look at their CQC (care quality commission) rating and their latest CQC report to get an independent view of their good points and current challenges.  

Book a visit. 

It is important to visit the home if current restrictions allow, but this may be a virtual tour.   What is your first impression?   Look at access to the property, have they considered wheelchair access or is there steps up to the property.  Is there enough parking? Does the home appear tidy, clean and well kept?  Are the staff welcoming and friendly, or do they appear rushed or stressed?   

What are the arrangements for security and safety?

Is there access control such as a receptionist and what are their hours? Are there key entry pads, what are the arrangements for visitor access in and out of hours? Is there CCTV?   Do they use sensor equipment such as movement, floor or chair sensors to manage risk?  

Is there internet access?

What are the arrangements for Wi-Fi, is this available throughout the home, is it included in the price?  

What are the infection control arrangements?

What are the current guidelines in terms of infection control, are there any restrictions which you will need to adhere to?  What is the policy and current uptake of staff COVID vaccination?  

What are the staffing arrangements?

What is the staffing ratio, does the home have many staffing vacancies, are they using agency staff?

What are the arrangements for visiting? 

Can your family visit at any time, are children or pets allowed to visit? Are there any restrictions if you wish to go out with your family or friends?  

Are there any additional costs?

Are you required to pay for toiletries, hairdressing, newspapers?  What is the cost and how is it billed/collected?

What can you expect from the food?

Do they provide a menu to select choices from, how far in advance will you need to decide?  Is the food cooked on site?  Do they cater for special diets? Will snacks and drinks be available?  Can your visitors have a drink?  What does the dining experience look like, are you able to eat in your room if you prefer? Can you make suggestions and influence the menu choices?

Can you keep your own GP?

If you are moving out of your GP catchment area the likelihood is that you will have to change to a surgery local to the care home.  

Can you bring your pet?

This will depend on the care home and your pet.  Many care homes are pet friendly and will allow your pet to move in, but there may be caveats, such as restrictions on the size or type of pet and your ability to care for the animal independently.  In circumstances where the care home environment is not suitable for your pet to live in, there may be options for your pet to visit, ask if the animal is able to visit and what these arrangements would look like.    

Will you be able to smoke?

Residential homes are exempt from smoke free legislation as these are regarded in law as the same as an individual’s own home.  However, it is rare to find a residential home which allows smoking indoors.  Usually there is an area outside the home where smoking can take place.  Each home will have different arrangements, so it is important to ask if this applies to you.  

Can you still drink alcohol?

Yes, alcohol consumption is a choice which you should still be able to enjoy freely.  The home will have a duty of care to step in if problems occur from over consumption or there are risks that cannot be mitigated.  But as a general rule, alcohol is fine.  

Who do I speak to if I am not happy with the care provided? 

The care home will have a complaints policy which will advise you on how to get the process started.   Information regarding how to complain should be available freely throughout the home.  If you are not satisfied with the care homes internal process, there are several other places you can go to ensure your feedback is dealt with.  If you are funded by your local council, you can raise your concern or complaint directly with them.  You can also complain directly to the care quality commission.  If you are still unhappy with the response or outcome you can approach the social care ombudsman.    

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