Choosing your care home | Ben Care
Help and advice

Choosing a care home

If the time has come when your loved one can no longer live safely at home, or their care needs have become too great for you to manage, finding a good care home may be the next step. It can be an emotional process, but finding a home where you are confident, they will be happy and well looked after will enable you to enjoy peace of mind and fewer worries.

Good care can give your loved one – and you - a better quality of life. They will enjoy companionship and good food in an environment where they are safe, with people around to help and support them 24 hours a day. The first step to choosing a care home may be to let go of any feelings of failure or sadness and see this could – and should - make life better for all concerned. 

Feeling confident in your choice of care home is crucial for your peace of mind, so here are five things to consider when choosing a care home and finding the right care for your loved one:

  1. Think about needs and wishes
  2. What type of care is needed
  3. Find and visit homes in person
  4. What to look for on a care home visit
  5. Working out how to pay for care


1. Think about needs and wishes

Meeting your loved one’s needs means ensuring they receive the appropriate type of care (see below).  Their wishes are more about lifestyle and how they like to live.  Can the care home help support them to continue with their hobbies and interests?  What’s important to them and what are their pleasures? Would being able to participate in gardening be important? Reading – can they access books? TV – can they watch their favourite shows and films? Music and sport – can they enjoy watching their favourite team, join in a singalong or enjoy an afternoon concert?

You know your loved one but make sure to have a conversation with them about what matters most.  It will help you identify care homes they’ll really enjoy living in.

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2. What type of care?

What kind of care does your loved one need now?  And what might they need in the future? Some homes offer only residential care which focuses on assisting residents with basic daily tasks like washing, dressing, taking medication and meals.  Others have nurses on their staff who provide clinical care, and some provide specialist dementia care.  All Ben’s care homes have nursing staff, specialist dementia care and residential care so we’re able to adapt as residents’ needs change – it’s worth checking if the care homes you are looking at also provide this range of services to ensure you don’t have to move to another care home in the future.

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3. Find and visit at least three care homes in person

There are numerous directories online such as Autumna and Lottie or – these are useful places to start researching care homes as they have lots of information and verified reviews. The CQC publishes inspection reports on all care home which you can find here.

The internet is fantastic for research, but you can’t rely on a website or brochure, you need to visit your shortlist of homes in person. It’s a good idea to talk to them on the phone to find out whether they can meet your list of needs and wishes. You can either just turn up or book a visit in advance. Arriving unannounced might seem like a good idea but if staff are in the middle of activities or mealtimes, they may not be able to give you the attention you need, so booking a visit with the manager is a good first step.

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4. What to look for on a care home visit

Assess your shortlist factually when your visit them (does it meet needs and wishes) and emotionally (what did it feel like when you were there?).

What are the rooms like? Are they ensuite? What about food – ask to see menus and find out if people can eat when they choose? Is there an activities programme? What is included in the fees? There are so many questions to ask, using a checklist like this one might help as a way of assessing each home.

As well as ticking the boxes, listen to your instincts; how a care home feels, its atmosphere and the demeanour of the staff are good indicators of the happiness of residents and staff and whether the home is well-run.

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5. Working out how care will be paid for

Once you’ve found a care home that you’re confident will provide a great standard of care for your loved one, it’s time to look at the financials. The Age UK website has a lot of useful information on paying for care. The first step is a care needs assessment from your local council which will establish whether they will pay for some, all, or none of your loved one’s care. This is means tested so it’s helpful to have all the relevant information about your their financial status to hand including savings, property, investments and pensions.

The journey to residential care can feel daunting, but you’re not alone. Good care homes will understand the challenges and help you to make the right decision. With good preparation and research, you’ll arrive at the right place for you and your loved one to enjoy all the benefits great care can provide.

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