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Choosing the right care home

Choosing a care home is a huge decision and one that it is right to take your time over.

Each home is different and whether you’re looking for somewhere for yourself or a loved one to live, you need to make sure the one you choose is just right. We know the choice can seem overwhelming, and the responsibility to get it right can feel huge, which is why we’ve put together this impartial guide to help you work out which home is right for your family, whether its with Four Seasons or another care home.

What care do you need?

The type of care you’re looking for will start to narrow down the choices available to you. Some homes have qualified nursing staff, ready to provide the right care for those who are frailer or living with chronic conditions. There are also specialist dementia units where staff look after residents with Alzheimer’s or related conditions. For advice on the kind of care you’re looking for speak to a local GP and social services department. They will be able to talk to you about what sort of help you or your loved one might need in future as well as now. Some people may qualify for NHS Continuing Healthcare, where the costs of their healthcare will be met. The Social Services department may also help with the cost of a care home depending on your financial situation. For more information about either of these possibilities, take a look at our Fees and Funding section on our website

What to consider?

Once you’ve decided what care is appropriate, it’s time to find the right place. Just like choosing somewhere to live, some places will tick your boxes. Others just may not feel right. Here are some suggestions to help you narrow down your search. This list will help you pick the home that suits you best.

  • Location - Should the home be near where you live now or further away? Staying close to your current home means that you’ll be able to keep in touch with friends and neighbours. Moving away, perhaps to be closer to grown up children, might allow them to visit more often and mean they could get involved with life in the home themselves. Talk together and see how everyone feels.
  • What kind of care - Once you’ve thought about what care is needed you can draw up a shortlist of the homes that fit the bill. Then you can start to do some research. Call the individual homes and ask for their brochures and, with help from friends and family if necessary, have a look what people say about the home online. If social services are paying some or all of the fees, your care manager will have a list of home which are suitable. They’ll also be able to arrange visits to them.
  • Your likes and dislikes - This is where the individual homes will start to stand out. Keen gardeners might want to consider homes with large grounds where they can carry on their hobby. For those who prefer their own company, places with a buzzing social calendar and big communal dining room might not be right, or, on the other hand, these might be perfect if they like to socialise and keep busy.
  • Speak to friends - Ask others who have already looked at care homes themselves. Although the decision is very individual, they may be able to give you some pointers of things to look for or questions they wish they’d asked themselves. Your local branch of Age UK or other charities may also be able to give you some information. But remember at the end of the day only you can decide the best place for you or your loved one.
  • Read the reports - To check that the homes you have in mind provide a good quality of care, look at the reports on each home and its quality rating, produced by the relevant regulatory body. Use them as a guide to help you decide, but don’t rely on them entirely. How you feel is what really matters. The regulating bodies differ across the UK; England is the Care Quality Commission. It is the Care and Social Services Inspectorate in Wales, and the Regulation, Quality Improvement Authority in Northern Ireland and the Care Inspectorate in Scotland. 
  • Pay them a visit -  Make sure you look round the care homes on your shortlist, and feel free to visit more than once. Going in at various times of the day will give you a different viewpoint. Take someone with you so you can chat about it afterwards and weigh up what you’ve seen. When you visit, look at the décor and furniture and ask yourself if you or your loved one will feel at home. Find out where residents tend to get together and think about whether you can see yourself or them there. Ask to look at the bedrooms so you can see if it’s what you’re looking for. Take our list along adding your own questions in the space at the bottom. And don’t ignore the good or bad feeling you get from a place. Keep looking at different care homes until you find the one that fits with what you’re looking for.

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