Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions when you visit care homes: the more information you have, the more confident you will feel in helping your relative to make the best choice.

On this page you will find a series of checklists containing questions to ask when you visit care homes. They are divided into the following sections:

1. Care home fees and additional costs
2. Other practical issues
3. Your relative's potential room
4. In and around the home
5. Downloadable PDF checklist

Care home fees and additional costs

  • What are the monthly/annual fees?
  • What does this include and exclude?
  • Are fees paid in advance or arrears?
  • How much notice will be given for fee increases?
  • What happens if your relative is away, for example in hospital, for a period of time?
  • What additional costs are to be expected?
  • What are the charges for phone calls or broadband?
  • Would your relative be liable for their own TV licence (if they are under 75)?
  • Does the care home arrange visits to/from, for example, opticians, dentists, GPs, chiropodists?
  • How often do they come and what are the charges for this?
  • If services are provided externally, will staff accompany your relative on these visits?
  • What are the charges for various activities or outings?
  • Are the contents of your relative’s room covered by the care home insurance, or would they need to get their own policy?
  • Terms and conditions: these should all be set out in the contract. Ask for a copy to take away.

Other practical issues

  • When would space be available? Is there a waiting list?
  • What level of care is available? Can special care needs be met, even during the night? If your relative’s condition should worsen (for example, they needed nursing care rather than just personal care), could the care home provide this?
  • What social activities are on offer for residents to take part in?
  • Location: what’s the surrounding area like, and is it easy for friends and family to reach by car or public transport?
  • Are there set visiting times for guests?
  • Are children welcome?
  • Is there any option for guests to stay overnight?
  • Can guests stay for meals? What are the charges for this?
  • What checks are in place to stop unwanted people coming in, or residents from wandering out?
  • Can residents go to their room when they wish to be alone?
  • Are residents allowed pets?
  • Is there somewhere safe and secure where your relative could keep valuables, such as ID, credit cards, money and jewellery?
  • If you, or your relative, are unhappy with any aspect of care, what is the procedure for giving feedback or raising complaints?

Your relative's potential room

  • Can you look at the room your relative might be offered? Would it be possible for them to move rooms later, if they wanted?
  • Could they bring their own furniture and possessions? How much space is there?
  • Are there private/en suite toilet and bathroom facilities? Are they suitably adapted?
  • Is there a telephone point in the room, or somewhere that your relative could make private phone calls?
  • Is there an emergency call system available in each room?
  • Are the corridors/toilets wide enough for a walking frame or wheelchair?

In and around the home

  • How many staff are on duty during the day and at night? Do there seem to be enough staff on duty when you’re there? Are they friendly? Do they make time to talk to individual residents?
  • Who provides the food? Can you see a menu or even sample a meal while you are there?
  • Are mealtimes flexible?
  • Where is food served? Could your relative eat in their room if they preferred?
  • Is there a garden/outdoor space for residents?
  • Is there a communal lounge with or without TV?
  • Are there smoking and non smoking areas?
  • Are there enough toilets within easy reach of the bedrooms and living area?
  • If your relative has reduced mobility, are all areas of the care home (their room, communal areas) easily accessible? Are there grab rails in the bathroom, for example, if needed? Are they secure?
  • Is there a private room, other than bedrooms, where residents can meet guests?
  • Is there a residents committee? 

It can be very useful to visit a home with another relative or friend. One of you can focus on talking to staff/having the official tour, and the other can have a look around the place and talk to residents away from the staff. Even the smell of the home can affect the way you think about it, and it’s helpful to be able to discuss this sort of thing with someone else after the visit.

Downloadable checklist

Use the link below to download our checklist to take with you when visiting a care home.

More information

Page last reviewed: 31 March 2015
Next review due: 30 September 2016