Finding a suitable care home for you or a loved one can be difficult. Knowing what to look for and what questions to ask can make the decision easier. Read this guide to help you make the right choice.

Step one – Make sure you have considered all your options

Moving into a care home not only involves changing where you live but could also cost you a lot of money.

The NHS guide to care homes advises you to consider the least disruptive and inexpensive options, such as support to live independently at home or in sheltered accommodation. 

Step two – Understand the different types of care homes

Care homes can offer permanent residence or care until someone can live independently or move to a different service. There are two main types of care homes for people who cannot live independently in their own homes.

  • Residential care homes range in size from small homes to large-scale services and offer a place to live with personal care throughout the day and night. Staff can help with washing, dressing, mealtimes and using the toilet.
  • Nursing homes provide the same care as residential services. They also offer 24-hour medical care from a qualified nurse.

Some care homes focus on supporting people with specific needs, such as dementia or severe disabilities. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates care homes and can provide information on both kinds of homes.

Step three – Be clear about who will fund your care

As the local authority, Birmingham City Council might help with the care costs if you need support. Exactly how much you get will depend on your needs and how much you can afford to pay.

The Money Advice Service has produced a guide on paying for care. The first step they advise is contacting the council’s social services department to find out whether you’re eligible for funding.

The council has a legal duty to assess what help you need. The Money Advice Service has also produced a guide explaining how care needs assessments work and what you should expect.

You might qualify for free NHS continuing healthcare funding if you have a complex medical problem. As with local authority funding, finding out if you are eligible and getting an assessment is essential.

Elderly man in glasses and tie

Step four – Find the right home for you

It’s important to do some research before visiting a home.

Things to think about include:

  • The home’s location
  • The cost of care
  • The home’s services

You can also:

  • Phone the care home or visit their website to request a brochure
  • Check if they have any places available.
  • Read the latest inspection report about the care home by the CQC.
  • You can also read what local people have said about specific care homes in Birmingham on our Feedback Centre.

The NHS website has a handy search tool to find care homes near you, view what others have said about them, and access the latest CQC inspection reports.

Step five – Making your choice

How can you tell if the home you are considering is right for you? Independent Age has developed eight indicators to judge the quality of a care home.

It is also good to make a checklist of things to look out for and questions to ask staff. For example:

  • What activities are on offer for residents?
  • What is the ratio of staff to residents?
  • Can you access the healthcare you need?
  • Would the home agree to a trial period?
  • What is the home’s visiting policy?

If you’re visiting on behalf of a loved one who can’t get to the care home, ask them to tell you which things on the checklist are most important to them before you visit.

It is also a good idea to record your reflections and ask any follow-up questions you might have.

Read more about what you should know before choosing a care home.

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