Care homes – your questions answered

CH1Moving a relative or friend who has dementia into a care home is emotional for everyone involved. It’s a difficult decision to make, as is being assured that it’s the right time, or if the care home you’ve chosen is the best one. We’re often asked about care homes, so here are some answers to the questions we most frequently receive.

1.How do I know when it’s the right time to move my relative/ friend with dementia into a care home?

Answer: Moving a relative or friend with dementia into a care home is a difficult period of transition for everyone, and knowing when it’s the right time is tough too. There are a few things to consider: Do you know what the relative’s/ friend’s wishes would be? Prior to their dementia reaching a point where they were unable to make decisions, did you have a conversation about the type of care they would like to receive in the future? This will help with the decision making process.  Have you spoken to their GP, your Admiral Nurse, health or social care worker, or dementia advisor/ worker about care homes and gained their advice? As the primary carer are you struggling to cope and feel it is best to get that extra support with care? Have you spoken to other relatives and friends to get their opinion? Taking these points into consideration and talking to other people will help you to make the decision.

2. How do I go about choosing a care home?

Answer: The Elderly Accommodation Counsel helps people to make informed choices about their housing and care needs. It also runs a housing and care database that has over 40,000 care providers on it. Select some that are in your area and arrange to visit them to take a look around.

The Residents and Relatives Association provides support and help regarding choosing and moving a relative into a care home and if you have concerns about a care home. They also have a helpline (020 7359 8136), which operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm, and provides advice on what to look for when choosing a care home, how to pay for it, as well giving support to carers who are struggling to cope with their own feelings.

3.What should I consider when looking for a care home?

Answer: Age UK provides some great advice on what to look for when considering a care home. They have a detailed guide, which includes a check list of what you should think about when short listing and viewing care homes.  Age UK has also produced a video which will provide you with some guidance.

4. How do I know if the care home is any good?

Answer: Understandably, carers have concerns about the standards of care in homes, especially due to incidents that are reported in the news. However, there are good care homes that have excellent standards.

There is also the Care Quality Commission, which helps to regulate and grade the quality of care homes. Its sole purpose is to make sure health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate, and high-quality care. If you go to the care homes section of the Care Quality Commission site, you can search for the residential or nursing home that you are considering and you will find an inspection report about the care home.

5. How do I know if the care home provides good care for people with dementia?

Answer: Some care homes specialise in supporting people with dementia and will promote this on their website and marketing materials. However, when you visit a care home to see if it is suitable, whether it says it specialises in dementia or not, it is best to ask a few questions. Questions you ask may include: How many carers have had training in dementia care, at what level, and do they have certificates? Can you talk to a couple of the carers who have dementia care experience? Can you talk to other families who have a relative who has dementia in the care home to hear about their experience? By asking these questions and talking to people it should give you an indication of the care homes standards of dementia care.

6. How do I pay for the care home?

Answer: Care is paid for privately – through the person with dementia’s savings or your own – or by the local authorities. If the care is to be arranged by the local authorities, they will assess the needs of your relative to understand the level of care that they require, along with running a means test to understand your relative’s financial assets. Your local authority will then allocate a care home for your relative, or will give you a few options for a care home. The more expensive care homes may require a top up fee from the person who has dementia’s savings, or your own should you want to do this.

7. What should I do if I have any concerns about the care that my loved one is receiving in a care home?

Answer: If you have any concerns about the care of a person in the care home or the ability of staff to meet the their needs, please speak to the manager in the first instance. State what the concerns are and what you would suggest could address these. If this does not resolve the issue or you are dissatisfied with the response, ask the manager for details of their line manager so you can express your concerns to them. In cases where there are still concerns or the situation is a safety risk, indicates neglect or poor standards of care you could then raise this with the Care Quality Commission (for services in England), Care Social Services Inspectorate Wales, Care Inspectorate (for services in Scotland) or Regulation Quality Improvement Authority (for services in Northern Ireland).

Age UK also has a fact sheet on how to pay for care.

Content was kindly reviewed by Admiral Nurse Dave Bell.