Choosing a Care Home

Leading social care consultant Tim Dallinger gives his advice on looking for the right care home for a loved one

Deciding that a loved one can no longer cope living at home is one of the hardest decisions that we face in our adult lives. I am often asked by relatives when is the time to look for a care home for their loved one. What they really mean is: when does that person need the specialist care that a care home can provide?

My answer to this question is quite simple – when the person is no longer safe in their current accommodation, be that their own home of many years or when care they may be receiving in their own home is no longer meeting their needs. There are many things that can contribute to the person not being safe; these can include physical things such as leaving doors unlocked, leaving the water running or leaving the gas on. It can also be more subtle things, such as the person sleeping all day and being awake at night or them having auditory hallucinations and believing that they are real. All these contribute to them being unsafe, and I say to relatives that they should ask themselves on a regular basis “Are they safe?” If the answer is no, then this is the time to move them to a place where they can receive the care and support they need and deserve.

Another factor to consider may be that a person living alone is lonely and isolated, with family members living many miles away. 51% of people over the age of 75 live alone and research has proved how the loneliness in old age can impact a person’s overall health and wellbeing. A good care home offers a vibrant environment where residents can enjoy a range of activities and social interactions with like-minded people, reducing feelings of loneliness.

Let’s go back to the original question for a moment “When do I look for a care home for my loved one?” My answer to this is: “two years before you think they will need to move to a care home”. This seems like a long time, so let me explain why I say this. If the decision to look for a suitable care home is left until it is an absolute necessity it becomes a distress purchase under the pressure of a time constraint. I have advised many people who having been provided with a list of care homes by the local authority and having visited some of these are in tears because they have seen sub-standard, noisy, malodourous care homes and are at the end of their tether. If you recognise that a loved one may need to be supported in a care home in the future, begin looking straight away. Then you can do internet research, read CQC inspection reports (not just look at the ratings) and visit the care home to see what they offer.

I always recommend that the first visit is made by appointment, and then the Registered Manager can meet you and make sure the appropriate staff are available to show you around and answer any questions you may have. Subsequent visits can be made unannounced to see how the home supports people at different times of day. In this way you can build a relationship with the care home team and when you need to find appropriate support for a loved one in a short timeframe i.e. they are about the be discharged from hospital, you can not only be confident that they will be well looked after, but also be confident that the care home you have got to know will support you and your loved one through the settling in period and beyond.

At Heathfield Court Care Home the Home Manager, Janet Collings invites you to get in touch to find out what the home and its team can offer and to start to build that all important relationship which will give you peace of mind in the future.  When Heathfield Court opens its doors in 2017 it may be the perfect time for you to come and see the great care our organisation has been providing to many families for over 20 years. Contact us today on 0203 434 2919 or email at

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