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How to choose the best care home for your relative

Helping and caring for an elderly friend or relative is extremely testing for any person, and the decision to talk to them about moving into a care home can be tough.

Moving into a care home has its advantages, taking the pressure off family members who can rest assured that their relative will be cared for by trained staff at all times. This new environment can very often offer a new lease of life for older individuals, who have the chance to meet new people, which is something they may not have been able to do at home.

This guide will detail everything a friend or relative should consider before their loved one makes the move to a care home, including their individual needs, and the different types of accommodation available.

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Before making a final decision about whether a care home is the best option for your loved one, make sure you request a free care assessment from the social services department of your local authority. Seeking this does not necessarily mean that you have to move your relative into the care home, but it will help you to make the best decision based on your options.

During this process, an official will look at the person’s specific requirements, and help you to decide whether residential care is the best approach for their overall wellbeing, or whether support in the home would be the better alternative. It is important to realise that your loved one will not be forced to move if the decision is not right for them, and if they have full mental capacity, they have the right to choose.

A social care professional will come to their home to see how they are coping with day-to-day tasks. Then, they will make recommendations based on what they have seen. During this visit, the professional will look out for the following things:

  • The individual’s health and overall wellbeing, whether they have any disabilities, and what they can and can’t do
  • Their living arrangements, and what help they are currently getting, if any
  • Any concerns that you have about your loved one, as you are probably one of the best placed to talk about this matter
  • How they would like to be supported themselves
  • The opinions of professionals such as their GP or the community nurse

The social care worker will also consider the individual’s emotional and social needs, for example, their wish to stay near family members, and any additional needs, such as religious and cultural beliefs.


Not all care homes are the same or offer the same services. There are small differences between them that could make all the difference for your loved one. It is best to look over the options before making a decision to ensure your relative will be happy and cared for in the best place for them.

Care homes can be owned and operated by councils, private companies or charities.

We have outlined the different options below.


This option provides help with personal care, which means things people quite often take for granted, such as washing, dressing, going to the toilet and taking medication. People who live in care homes are also offered a number of social opportunities like day trips and in-house activities.


Designed to cater for the needs of individuals with dementia, these establishments usually have a qualified nurse with specialised training to ensure residents are as comfortable as possible.


Usually known as nursing homes, this option offers personal care and assistance from qualified nurses. They are often the best option for individuals with medical needs.


This option accepts residents who require both personal and nursing care, which means if a resident requires additional help further down the line, they will not have to move to a different home. This is very often better for their circumstances, as it is much less disruptive.


Selecting the right care home that is well suited to your loved one’s requirements is a huge decision, and each individual will find that their journey to finding the perfect solution is different from someone else’s.

There are many different ways to find out which care homes are the best, we’ve popped together this list to help:

  • Ask people who have shared similar experiences for recommendations. This could be friends, relatives, colleagues or neighbours. Speak to them about their experiences with particular ones, and head down to your local community centre for more information. While a personal recommendation is a good place to start, that does not mean that conditions have not improved/deteriorated since.
  • Speak to your local council, asking for a list of homes and any other related information. You should also ask if there are any homes where they are not currently placing residents, as this quite often suggests there are issues at these establishments.
  • Visit the website for information on finding care homes in a particular area.
  • The Care Quality Commission can provide impartial information about homes and latest inspection findings are available on the majority of homes on this website.
  • Check the phone book or internet for care homes in your area that you may not have considered
  • If your relative has specialist long-term needs, such as an illness or health condition, look for organisations that specialise in it. This could include the Alzheimer’s Society, or Parkinson’s UK.

Search the names of the care homes on your shortlist on Google - do any news article appear about the home? Are they positive or negative?

If you have managed to find some potential homes, the next step is to get in touch with them. While requesting a brochure is a great idea, it is better to visit the place itself so you can really get a feel for what living there would be like for your relative.


Once you and your relative have chosen some potential options, the next step is to visit them. While calling in for appointments is the usual initial step, you could always drop in unannounced to get a true feel for the conditions. This will ensure you are catching the staff when they do not expect it, meaning the experience will be more true to life.

It is essential that you are clear about what you want the home to provide for your relative. It could be a good idea to make a list of key questions and other things that they want to look out for during the visit.

We have created an example of some potential questions below, but feel free to take this with you for your visit:

  • Does the care home feel inviting? Do you feel at ease?
  • Are the rooms a good size or do you feel too cramped?
  • Is the location of the care home convenient for family members and friends to visit? What about visiting hours?
  • Are there any unpleasant smells? Is the care home clean?
  • Do members of staff invite residents to go out to the shops, or visit places of worship?
  • Can residents make the most of exercise, such as special classes or gardening?
  • Is there an element of freedom to daily routine, or is this decided by the members of staff?
  • Is there satellite or cable TV?
  • Does the food look tasty and nutritious? Is the menu varied?
  • Does there look to be enough staff? How many professionals are employed per resident?
  • Are there residents from a similar background?
  • How much are the fees for living there? What exactly does this cost cover?
  • What is done for residents whose conditions change over time?

While asking so many questions can be daunting, there is nothing wrong with it. It is perfectly acceptable to do as much research as you can during this visit. If you have the chance, try to speak to existing residents to give you a better idea of what it’s like to live there.

When looking for a care home, it is best to be prepared to visit a number of establishments and make comparisons before your friend or loved one is able to make that all important decision. When a suitable residence has been found, which they are able to afford, the care home will then do its own assessment to ensure they can fully cater to their needs.

There is no denying that this time can be extremely testing and emotional, and some people take longer to make the decision than others. All you can do is look out for and support your friend or relative throughout this process by asking questions they may not have asked, and ensuring that their needs will be met. While it can be difficult, when you find the right care home, you will know that the right decision has been made.