Cookie Consent by Top 10 tips from a care home insider

Top 10 tips from a care home insider

Access to primary care services  

Primary care services include general practice, pharmacy, dental and eye health services provided by the NHS.  

Some care providers will have a contract with their local GP to provide additional services to the care home.  Whilst your loved one is entitled to receive essential services from the GP surgery falling within their geographical area, there are advantages to choosing a home with a GP contract in place.  

Additional services generally include a weekly ‘ward round’ of the home where they can undertake health checks, medication reviews, support staff and be a regular point of contact for any medical queries.  This is usually completed by a dedicated GP who can really get to know your loved one and the team looking after them.    

Things are changing in this arena and there will be differences in service level countrywide. Some areas will already have an NHS funded GP or nurse-led contact team.  

Either way, it is worth asking what provisions are in place for your loved one to access primary care services.  


Communal living

Your loved one may not want to reside with folk who are confused or in a home where the environment is prone to be noisy.

They may therefore rule out homes that provide dementia care as an option for them. Unfortunately, the grey area between ‘pleasantly confused’ and a dementia diagnosis is cavernous.

A care provider that says ‘we do not accept dementia as a primary diagnosis’ doesn’t mean that the care home will not have confused and disorientated people living there. Some people will deteriorate with age and exhibit symptoms over time that they may not have had on admission.

For a home manager, moving individuals out of a care home, usually under the headline ‘we can no longer meet their needs’ is not a quick or easy task, and furthermore, a highly unpleasant one.  

When you look around potential care homes, pay attention to the other residents your loved one will be living with and listen to the environment. What you are hearing, is likely what your loved one will be hearing every day.  


Menu – for show or for real?

Excellent food quality should be a given in any care home, there are the obvious things to look out for, such as: does the food look inviting? or are the residents enjoying it?

But there are some other ways of measuring an effective catering team if you are only in the home for a brief tour. For instance, you may be shown a beautifully presented menu, a menu board on a wall or a presentation board advertising today's menu choices in reception.

Is the food being served as advertised? If the choice on the table differs from the choice advertised is there a reasonable explanation, such as a delivery failure, or is your show around host stumped that the residents are eating chicken rather than fish?

Staff training: box-ticking or improving quality?

The quality of staff training varies throughout the country, whether it be provided by in-house trainers or eLearning platforms. You are unlikely to measure the quality of any system without having experienced it yourself, so rather than asking what training is available to staff, which may prompt a very dull list of mandatory courses, ask about champions.  

Champions can be trained in many subjects from hydration to dignity and will indicate the home has invested additional resources to ensure that selected staff members are leading the way to great quality care. A care home provider that invests in champions not only shows a vested interest in the progression of their staff, but a real passion in terms of quality.

Champions are not mandatory, so any care provider investing the time and cost is raising the bar. Care homes rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), usually have champions as a reoccurring theme.    


Barista style coffee, but is there enough to go around?  

Coffee lounges and barista-style machines are high on some care providers agenda and look stunning in a nicely laid out café area.  Check the fridge, is it well stocked? Often care providers spend huge sums of money on expensive and impressive coffee machines but lack the insight to assign the home with a budget to buy supplies.    


Bingo or boring 

If you are told ‘we have bingo every day’ be wary. Even lovers of bingo do not necessarily want to play bingo every day. It is a very easy, quick win for the home, but may be an indication of a lazy lack of imagination. Activities should be based on the general consensus of the home, and what those residents actually want to do. Ask for minutes of the last relative or residents meeting, a good care home provider will have an action plan based on what has been asked for with timelines for completion.  

If your loved one enjoys excursions, a care home with a minibus may be your best option. Finding transport for a number of people with varying disabilities is a challenge, if a care home has its own then they have already overcome one of the biggest hurdles to arranging an outing.

Additional professional support

Some care providers will have other professionals on the payroll to offer support to your loved one such as a physio or music therapist. Ask about these additional professional support networks. There is often a strict criterion that accompanies access to an NHS community physio, so if you are after some post-fall rehabilitation for incidence, then a care home that employs a physio could be a great asset.

See the cracks in a well-paved ‘show round’ 

Some care providers not only have a pitch prepared for your visit, but they will also have a route to take you on to view the best aspects of the home. Essentially, they are trying to sell you something, so they can be forgiven for wanting to show it at its best.

They may also have a ‘show room’, which will be adorned to the highest degree with flowers, complimentary toiletries and contemporary art. Often there is a television on display, which is not necessarily included in the price.

What you want to see is the room you are actually purchasing, not the best room in the house with the best view.   


‘A gilded cage, is still a cage’ (Lady Hale 2014) 

A care home may have a beautifully landscaped garden, with trellises, benches and raised borders, but is that a good indication that people have access to it?  Some may argue that a garden with some evidence of debris, such as lawn games or used crockery and well-trodden grass may be a better indication of use.  Care home staff are notoriously time-pressured; time outside can sometimes be seen as a luxury rather than a right.  If your loved one likes to take a stroll at their leisure, make sure that garden access is not under ‘supervision’ or restricted by a key coded door.  


Registered Managers 

Often, the difference between a good care home and a bad one is the manager at the helm and not the facilities.  It takes a special kind of person to be a home manager, and stick it out through thick, and thin.  

If the home has a registered home manager, it means that the individual has registered with the Care Quality Commission and gone through a process to determine that they are an appropriate person to be managing.  This includes checks on their character, performance, qualifications, skills and competence.  The CQC registration process can take a long time, by having a registered manager you know that the individual has been in post for a while (good start) and they have committed to the role by undertaking the registration process, which is no walk in the park!

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