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Finding a care home for someone who doesn't speak English

Researching care home options for a non-English speaker may be a challenge – here’s our advice on how to overcome it.
4 min read
In this article
Translating needs Finding a care home with staff who speak the language of your loved one What to do if your online research uncovers nothing practical
Finding a faith-appropriate care home Addressing discrimination in care services

Looking into care home options for a loved one can feel difficult and emotionally straining at any time. But if the person for whom you’re doing this doesn’t speak English well, or at all, it becomes even more complex.

Here, we run through some of the best ways to tackle this, to help you and the person you’re representing find the best care provision.

Translating needs

Whether your loved one needs to be assessed by a healthcare professional, or you’re talking to them about how they’d like their care provision to be shaped, it’s important that everyone involved understands each other.

If you speak the main language of your relative or friend as well as English, you may like to attend appointments and meetings with them, to help ensure clear communication.

However, the person in need of care may not feel comfortable communicating their needs through someone they know well. In this case, the NHS should be able to access and provide interpreting and translation services. It’s worth noting that you won’t need to directly pay for this.

If you’re at the stage of researching specific care home options, providers may offer all information in the language spoken by your loved one. If this isn’t clearly signposted on the website, this doesn’t automatically mean it doesn’t exist – contact the provider directly to find out what they can offer.

Finding a care home with staff who speak the language of your loved one

When looking into care provision, the first thing you’ll want to do is draw up a shortlist of local and easily accessible options.

Use our care services directory to do this. You simply select the care home option (or specify residential or nursing homes) and enter a postcode or place name, and you’ll then be able to scroll through local options and see official ratings (in England and Scotland) and contact details for each search result.

Once you’ve done this and you’re happy with your shortlist, it’s worth ringing each one to find out more. You may want to ask whether it has staff who speak the language of your loved one as a priority, before moving onto other important questions.

Checklist: questions to ask when choosing a care home
(pdf 620 Kb)

You’ll probably have fewer feasible options to choose from at this point, but that may mean you’re one step closer to finding the perfect fit. The next step is organising a face-to-face visit, including the person who needs care, even if they don’t speak English.

Use our calculator to find out the cost of a care home in your area and what financial support is available.

What to do if your online research uncovers nothing practical

If you haven’t yet been successful in finding the right care home for your loved one, don’t give up. There are avenues you can still explore, which is important to do if professional care is needed.

  • Ask friends or relatives in similar circumstances because they could have some useful pointers.
  • Get in touch with your local Age UK or other charity that works on behalf of older people as they may have previously advised on similar challenges.
  • Ask local care providers how their staff would work with someone when there’s a language barrier and potential cultural differences. You could also ask whether staff members have received any relevant training.

Finding a faith-appropriate care home

If the person for whom you’re researching care homes wants their faith to be acknowledged in the care they receive, there are a few things you can do.

There may, for example, be a specialist organisation that caters specifically for those looking into care options with their faith in mind. These are quite few and far between but, even if there’s not one that caters specifically to your needs, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find something appropriate.

Take a look at our article on finding a care home that reflects your faith for our tips.

Addressing discrimination in care services

If you’ve been unlawfully discriminated against, know that you’re protected under the Equality Act 2010.

Discrimination doesn’t need to be direct to count as unlawful, either. For example, it could be a way of doing things that puts you at a disadvantage compared to others.

For information on what to do if you’re a victim of unlawful discrimination, see our full advice on tackling discrimination in health and care services.

Further reading

Choosing a care home

How to make a shortlist of suitable care homes, and uncover key information to ensure your needs are met.

Last updated: 01 Jul 2021