Guidelines for Choosing Residential Care Homes

Choosing residential care homes for our loved ones is a heart breaking task. No matter how overwhelming the case for residential care becomes we question our motives over and over again.



Making the final choice is hard but in the end we have to choose the option that is going to give the best care to our loved ones. Unfortunately sometimes home is not going to be the best option.

This article is in two parts:



Part I gives some general guidelines on different types of care and funding.

Part II of this article on care homes is a checklist to guide you through your search.



Part I

We all wish to remain in our own home but unfortunately it is not always possible. If you're caring for loved ones and their needs are becoming more demanding and you're beginning to feel the strain then start to look at the available options within your local area.

You need plenty of time to find the right place. Even if you feel it is a way off yet, it's good to have a look and have somewhere in mind should the need arise.

When I was caring for Mum who had Alzheimers dementia it became apparent over a period of time that we were going to have to begin looking at alternatives.

We had  a care package in place for a couple of years which started with someone coming in to help with household tasks, then we had to add personal care as bathing became too difficult for her to manage on her own. Then we needed someone to come in twice a day to supervise her taking medication. We had frozen ready prepared meals delivered once a week so she had a main meal of the day ready to pop in the oven. On top of this I would visit every day and stay with her for as long as I could.

As time went on however we had several incidents where it became evident that Mum was not going to be able to carry on in her own flat.

I identified two or three residential care homes that had been recommeneded to me and I visited them first by myself and then with Mum. We then arranged for her to stay for two weeks respite care in the one we thought was best, while I went away on holiday. We did this twice with different homes each time and both times were a disaster. Mum hated them and was adament that there was no way she was going to stay.

The main problem was that because she had Alzheimers she was put into the secure part of the home so she couldn't come and go as she wanted to. Although each of the residential care homes had assured me that if she wanted to go out someone would accompany her it was evident that in reality they didn't have the resources to meet their promises.

She felt she was being held a prisoner against her wishes. I had to look at a lot more residential care homes before we found the right one to meet her needs that all the family felt comfortable with. It was an emotional journey that took an enormous amount of time but the more I saw the more I knew what to look for.

If you are in the position where you have to start considering residential care homes here are some guidelines that you may find helpful.


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Funding Care.

Cost is likely to be the overiding factor. Generally if you have over a certain amount of capital i.e. the value of your home + any savings then you are classed as self funding. This varies in different parts of the U.K.

If you live in England and have over £23,000 in capital you'll be assessed as being able to meet the full cost of your care. If you live in other parts of the UK, the following amounts of capital apply:

  • in Scotland - £22,750
  • in Wales - £22,000
  • in Northern Ireland - £23,250

Your capital will be counted as generating an income for example:

Amount of capital you have if you live in England If you have over £23,250 you will be assessed as being able to meet the full cost of your care.

If you have between £14,250 and £23,250 the capital between these amounts will be calculated as providing you with an income of £1 per week for every £250 of your savings and you will have to make some contribution.

If you have £14,250 or under your capital will be ignored in calculating how much you have to contribute to the cost of your care.

If you own your home then it will usually be counted as capital 12 weeks after you move permanently into a care home. The value of your home will not be counted as capital if certain close relatives still live there.

You can get further information on funding by downloading this pdf document from Age UK.

If you are caring for an elderly parent or loved one who's health deteriorates rapidly and it is obvious that they are going to need ongoing specialist nursing care they may qualify for NHS-Funded Care.  You can find out more  by downloading this PDF booklet NHS
Continuing Healthcare and NHS-funded Nursing Care.


Different types of residential Care Homes

Once you know how you're going to fund the care the next consideration is what kind of residential care do you need?

  • Do you need residential care homes that provide nursing care? Not all do, so be clear on this when making enquiries.
  • or

  • Do you need residential care homes that specialise in Dementia Care. Some say they do but have no specialist care in place. This could mean that they will take your loved one to begin with but as they deteriorate you will be forced to find somewhere more suitable.

Changing homes is stressful and unsettling and should be avoided if at all possible. Stability is important for peace of mind for all parties concerned.

If you choose a residential home that specialises in care they will have specialist staff trained to care for those with memory-related disorders and offer therapeutic activities. Some even have wonderful sensory rooms and gardens that are calming to people suffering with dementia.

When you've made your choice of which residential care homes you are going to visit telephone to make an appointment before visiting to ensure someone is available to show you around and answer your questions. When you have identified one or two good ones it is then worth considering an impromptu visit at some point, when hopefully you will still receive a warm welcome.

Like choosing any new home it's unlikely that you will find everything you're looking for, either in the right place, at the right cost or that has availability when you need it. So decide what you are prepared to compromise on and what you're not.

For guidance on asking the right questions go to:

Part II of this article and get the checklist to guide you through your search.


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