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Registered with the Care Quality Commission

Help and tips on choosing the right Care Home

When considering a care home you can follow some practical steps to make sure it is right for your needs and that you feel safe and comfortable:

  • Try to visit a number of homes before making any decisions; it will give you a feel for what they are like as places to live.
  • When you actually want to choose a home, make sure it can cater for your needs. In addition, if you know you may potentially have greater needs in the future, then think about what will happen at that time; will you be able to stay in your new home or will you have to move?
  • Think about the location; you don’t want to become isolated from your friends or relatives as this may increase your vulnerability. Try to make sure they can easily visit you.
  • Nice looking curtains and carpets are important, but also look at how residents are being treated and if they are happy. Watch how the staff interact with them, and ask to speak to people on your own.
  • Find out if people can get up and go to bed when they want, if friends can visit without restriction, look at the quality and amount of food being served and what choices are available.  And, if you have young children as part of your family, check that they can visit you too.
  • Go back and visit a home several times, at different times of the day. This will give you a feel for the different types of activity, differing staff groups, and how consistent the quality of care is. Try to visit in the evening as well as the morning.
  • Check what activities are available. You won’t want to become bored, or sit for hours doing nothing, so find out what is on offer.
  • Get a copy of the last two inspection reports from the Regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), to check what has been said about the home. (You can find out the contact details of the Regulator from the Action on Elder Abuse website ( Or, ask the home to give you copies when you visit. For Holme Bank's reports, click here.
  • Make sure you see the contract from the care home, and check that it covers the services you will receive, how much you will pay, what are ‘extras’, how often fees may be increased, the terms of your occupancy, any notice periods, and the complaints procedure.

Things to observe when you visit:

  • Do you notice a quick response to call bells?
  • When residents call out, do they get an appropriate response from staff?
  • Do the meals look appetising? Are residents eating most of their food? Are staff patiently assisting residents who need it?
  • Do residents' rooms appear to reflect the individuality of their occupants?
  • Is there cheerful, respectful, pleasant and warm interaction among staff and residents?
  • Do residents look clean, well-groomed, well-fed and free from bruises?
  • Do many residents seem alert? Happy? Peaceful?
  • Are residents seated comfortably?
  • Are residents engaged in meaningful and pleasant activities by themselves or with others?

Things to ask of staff:

  • What activities are residents involved in?
  • Are staff permanently assigned to residents?
  • Are many of the staff from temporary staffing agencies?
  • How much training is given to staff?
  • How often do residents who need it receive assistance with toileting or have their incontinence pads changed?
  • What is the family and resident participation in care planning meetings?
  • What does the home do to encourage employee retention and continuity?
  • Has the home undergone any recent changes in ownership or management?
  • Does the home provide transportation to community activities?
  • Under what circumstances might a resident be transferred to another room or unit or served notice to quit? 

Things to ask residents:

  • Are residents treated with respect and kindness?  
  • Are residents helped with meals?
  • Does the home respect residents' wishes about bedtime, baths, meals, etc?
  • Is attention given to residents at night if awake? Is there anything for them to do?
  • Does the resident have the same staff member most days?  
  • Are staff responsive to resident requests? Do they assist the resident with toileting?
  • Are snacks available to residents? Fresh fruit?
  • Do residents participate in care planning conferences?  Are his or her opinions valued?
  • Has the resident had missing possessions?  What happened?
  • Who handles resident or family member concerns? Is that person responsive?
  • Does the resident get outside for fresh air or activities as much as s/he wants?
  • What is best/worst about living in the home?