Care homes investigation Care homes checklist
When you visit a care home it's easy to be wowed by the glossy brochure, tasty sample menus and stimulating timetable of activities. It’s harder to know whether they represent the real conditions in the home, and whether it’s right for your relative
However, it doesn't take an inspector to look for clues. Use these tips and questions, which we picked up from our investigation and experts, to make sure you choose the right care home.
- Treat it like you would choosing any other home – visit at different times of the day, unannounced if you can. For example, could you visit at a meal time as well as seeing a menu?
- Are meal times relaxed and social, with residents offered a choice and the right level of support? Are fresh fruit and veg on offer?
- Look at the activity programme, but look around you, too. Activity is about the everyday things as well as events – is there a buzz in the home and are staff chatting with residents, rather than with each other, as they help with care tasks?
- Is there plenty to do – for example suitable music, and dolls and memorabilia for people with dementia? Bear in mind that an active home may not be neat and tidy.
- Ask specific questions that reflect your relative's needs – for example ‘will someone be able to take mum to Marks & Spencer once a month as she likes shopping there?’
- As you look around you, notice how other people are treated. Are distressed people helped with sensitivity and skill? Do withdrawn people get forgotten? Most importantly, are people treated as individuals?
- Would the home’s physical environment suit your relative? For example, will a quieter person have areas to sit and escape?
- Are hotel-style homes comfortable as well as smart? Would a sterile bathroom without any colour or comfort frighten a nervous bather? Is there anywhere for an active person with dementia to walk? Ideally this would be on the ground floor with safe and independent access to an enclosed garden.
- Chat to other residents and get their views on what they think of the home and the way it’s run.
If you're not happy with a relative's existing care, talk to the home manager or get advice from the relevant regulator – all the UK regulators make inspection reports available to the public.
Care Quality Commission 0300 361 6161
Regulatory and Quality Improvement Authority 028 9051 7500
Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland 0845 600 9527
Care Standards in Wales 01443 848450
Useful guides are available from:
Age UK 0800 169 6565
Alzheimer’s Society 0845 300 0336
Counsel and Care 020 7241 8555
National Association for Providers of Activities (NAPA) 020 7078 9375
For help on issues with care homes, call 0800 377 7070 to contact First Stop Care Advice.