Whilst the idea of finding a care home may seem daunting, it's like anything else - much easier when you have a plan. Whatever your situation, if you are looking for care, our detailed guide will set you on the right path.
First of all, some useful facts:
How is care regulated in England?
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the body that regulates the care industry. All practising care homes have to be CQC registered, and are regularly inspected by the CQC, so their website is useful for finding reports on any care homes you decide to shortlist. You can access the CQC website here
How many care homes are there?
Before you start to identify potential care homes, you need to know how to start narrowing the field. There are over 13,000 care homes in the UK with around 700 in the county of Kent alone, so it's a good idea to be clear on the 'must haves' before you start a detailed search or you could waste time, and risk becoming despondent.
As is often the case, thorough preparation helps ensure everything rolls out smoothly and logically.
If there is no LPA, then do try to put one in place so that close family are able to act for you if necessary. You’ll need to talk to a solicitor specialising in family law as it is a legal document. You will find more on this in the section headed 'Legal Advice' or by calling the Law and Life advice line on 0800 999 4437.
2. What medical conditions do we need to consider – now and in the future?
Your family will need to know about any existing medical condition/s and the long-term prognosis so that you can all plan your on-going care needs effectively. That may mean a joint consultation with your GP so that you are all clear on the current situation and the future prognosis – and so that the GP has a record of who to speak to at any point.
You will swiftly discover that there are many different categories of care home provision (see 3. below). It is therefore important to look at those that can cater for your likely long-term needs and not just for now. If you have a degenerative condition, your needs will change.
3. How many different types of Residential Care Home are there?
a. Daily care without nursing care
b. Daily care with nursing care
c. Dementia care
Note: care homes in this category vary according to the type and level of dementia care they can provide so it is important to be familiar with the main types of dementia and how they are likely to progress.
d. Respite care
e. Challenging behaviour
There are also care homes which are tailored to the needs of specific groups, eg:
f. Religious foundation (ie: Christian, Muslim, Jewish)
g. Sexual orientation
h. Arts-biased (Musicians, Artists, Dramatists)
4. How much money do I have and how long will it last?
Anyone with assets in excess of £23,250 will have to fund their own care. This means if you are a home-owner, you will be a self-funder as your home is an asset.
Residential care for self-funders typically costs from £750 - £1200 per week – but can be more for homes that are more like 5* hotels – or where 24-hour one-on-one support is required.
Knowing how much money will be available, how to release funds, and how long it will last, is vital before you start the search for a care home. It may at first look as though the sums won’t add up, but rest assured there are various financial management schemes available geared specifically to the ongoing release of funds to cover long-term care needs.
We advise that you contact a registered Independent Financial Advisor, someone who has the SOLLA accreditation (Society of Later Life Advisors). They will be able to provide initial guidance and tailored advice should you need it.
You can find more useful information in the section headed Funding Care on this site, or call our chosen partner, Care Funding Guidance on 0800 055 6225 who will be able to advise you.
5. Where does the care home need to be?
If you and your family have never discussed the possibility that you may one day live in a care home, there may be a lot of ground to cover quite quickly. It’s not unusual to be opposed to the idea initially, and to want to stay in your own home.
It’s important to be realistic about location and environment. Someone who has enjoyed the silence of the countryside may not want to move to the centre of a busy town, but equally, it should be easy for family and friends to visit.
What other questions should I ask myself before I get started?
Once you have identified where the care home needs to be (+/- 5 miles), the maximum amount it can cost and any medical conditions that you need to bear in mind, try and identify what else will help you to refine your search quickly. The following list should cover most things you need to be thinking about:
Choosing a care home - considerations
When you start to use the Autumna directory search facility to find a care home, you'll be taken effortlessly through a series of questions to identify your needs and wishes.
From the information you give, Autumna will find an initial ‘long’ shortlist of potential care homes for you to look at. You’ll be able to review detailed information on each, comparing one with the other from the comfort of your own home, and then make direct contact with any that look promising.
Alternatively, you can speak to Chosen with Care who, for a very reasonable fee, can take this part of the search away from you altogether.
If you find yourself feeling confused or overwhelmed, call the Chosen With Care Advice Line initially and find out how they can help: 01892 300 530.
You should be able to eliminate some of your early options from the long list fairly quickly by doing a like-for-like comparison of each whilst also checking on a map to see precisely where they are located.
Once you have done this, it’s a good idea to call those you are left with – it’s all part of the securing a vital ‘First Impression’.
What do you want to find out when you make the call?
‘Good morning, this is the Sea View care home and I am Karen White, the Manager; how can I help you?’
The only way to confirm or challenge the opinion you’ve already formed is to pay a visit. It's the ideal opportunity search for any missing pieces to the jigsaw and get answers to any specific questions you may have.
It’s important that someone goes with you – ideally a close friend or relative who knows you well. Not only are two sets of eyes better than one, but you'll be able to discuss the pros and cons of each home with them afterwards.
A word of warning: avoid the temptation to visit too many care homes on one day – as with viewing houses on Rightmove or choosing a holiday cottage on Booking.com, they’ll all start to merge into one after a while.
Ask if you can take photographs – it should be fine if you don’t include residents in the pictures. Over and above anything else, you need to be able to identify with ‘how it feels here’ and you won’t do that if you cram too much into the day.
Tips for a Care Home Visit:
1. Don’t make an appointment
Turn up unannounced, but at a reasonable time, ie: between breakfast and dinner, ideally 10.30am – 4.30pm.
2. Weekday or weekend?
Bear in mind that Monday – Friday runs like a working week; weekends are slightly more relaxed and the Care Home Manager may not be there. However, you will probably have the opportunity to meet more visitors which can be very useful.
3. On arrival, what do you find?
4. In Reception, what do you see?
5. On the tour, what do you notice?
What should you ask about? Checklist.
B. Residents’ Rooms
C. Communal Areas
F. Outdoor Space
G. Medical and Wellbeing Services
H. Safe Mobility
J. Language, Religion, Culture
The care home is obliged to provide a brochure which should clearly set out the following:
If you let your heart rule your head from the very beginning then you may be prepared to overlook things that are very important to you. However, once you are confident that the care home has everything you need, ask yourself: '... can I imagine myself living there?'
Once you have ticked off everything on your check list, reflect, and ask yourself:
Make sure you satisfy yourself that the reality matches the marketing message.
And before you sign any agreement:
"This may seem an immense amount to think about – but the decision you will be making, whether for yourself or a loved one, is one of the most important you will ever make. It's about ensuring that life can be lived and enjoyed, in the best possible environment – and surely everyone should be able to do that?"