Choosing Residential Care For a Parent

Choosing residential care can be a minefield if you don't know what to look for.  Check out these tips and advice to make sure you make the right  choice.

Putting the Oomph into activities at The DalesPutting the Oomph into activities at Barchester's The Dales

When choosing residential care for a parent it's hard and can take a great deal of time and effort depending on the locality. 

If you're looking for residential care in your own locality to move your parent into it may be slightly easier because you or friends may have some local knowledge as to which homes have the best reputation and which ones you've heard bad reports about.

If you're choosing residential care where your parent lives some distance away then you should be guided by their G.P.   Most Doctors know and can recommend the most appropriate care for your relative.  You can also request a list  of Care Homes in your locality from your local Council.

Be prepared to experience a mixture of emotions which can be quite exhausting.   You are very likely to feel guilty that you are even considering putting your nearest and dearest into residential care, but most of us arrive at this decision because it suddenly becomes necessary.

None of us like the thought of having to go into residential care, it is always preferable to stay in our own home with our own memories and possessions around us but sometimes it's just not possible any longer.

My Family's Experience

My Mother was diagnosed with Alzheimers not long after my Father died.    We were fortunate that by that time she lived near to us in a retirement apartment.   For six years we managed the situation with the help of different care packages as the illness progressed but inevitably the time came when it became evident that she was no longer safe living on her own.

I started looking around with the idea of choosing residential care for my mum long before we needed it but sometimes in cases of sudden illness or accident I realise this is not always possible.  If you have the opportunity to plan ahead it's always preferable.

I visited most of the homes in our local area first on my own and then the ones that I thought would be a possible option I arranged to take Mum with me.    We then arranged for her to stay in different ones over a period of a couple of years when we needed her to go into respite care while we went on holiday.

We did this three times choosing what we thought was the most appropriate home on offer but unfortunately none of them were successful.   She hated them all.  It became apparent that what appeared to be suitable on paper didn't quite come up to expectations in reality.

Was it the best criteria?

We were choosing residential care homes on how they looked in relation to nice decor, furnishings and facilities rather than the level of care they offered and the attitude of care staff to the residents.  We never asked to see a schedule of activities or sample menus. We didn't talk to some of the residents to get an idea of how they liked living there.

Care is big business these days and I found that most Care Homes will tell you exactly what you want to hear when in reality it can very different.  Sometimes the level of care and services they say they offer are not delivered simply because of the lack of resources in the number of care staff. 

One of the most beautifully furnished homes in the same Village where mum lived seemed perfect.  It had recently been refurbished and extended and had lovely comfortable colour coordinated lounges overlooking beautiful gardens.

They enthused over how wonderful their menu was and their schedule of activities for residents.   However, when Mum stayed for 2 weeks for respite care there was nothing for her to do other than watching the television, reading or amuse herself by chatting to anyone who would listen.

I joined her one Friday for lunch for their 'Special Friday Fish dinner' which was actually two fish fingers a few chips and a small portion of
peas.  A very small portion of tinned fruit salad for dessert.  Hardly enough for a small child let alone an adult.  Drinks were very limited throughout the day with no facilities for residents who were
able to go and make themselves a drink if they wished.

Mum's normal bed time was 10.00 p.m. at home but in that particular Care Home she was prepared for bed and then confined to her room from 7.00 p.m.  This was because there weren't enough staff on in the evenings and resources were spread very thinly.

Locked up in secure dementia unit!

During the day she wasn't allowed out in the lovely gardens because she was in the dementia unit which was locked with security locks on all the doors and they hadn't anyone to spare to take her outside. The sad thing was she wasn't at the stage where she needed that level of security.

Consequently she became very distressed because she felt she was being held a prisoner.  She actually lashed out at one of the nurses who was trying to stop her from ringing the Police to come and rescue her.  We laughed about it afterwards but at the time it was very upsetting both for Mum and for me.

I was called the day after that incident and asked to remove her because they couldn't cope with her aggressive behaviour which was purely borne out of sheer frustration and bewilderment as to why she should be locked up.

It was several months before we dared try it again.

When Choosing Residential Care Be Clear on What Level of Care is Appropriate!

Barchester's Harper Fields Care Home

It's difficult choosing residential care when you've never done it before but you will have a good idea of your parent's needs at the time of looking and what those needs are likely to be in the future.

You will also know what kind of activities your parent enjoys.  If you have the opportunity do your research diligently and establish exactly what level of care and services are on offer now and for the future.

  • It may be full or part Nursing Care
  • A secure unit for their own protection or
  • Simply a friendly homely environment where there are plenty of activities and a good level of general care and companionship.

For a comprehensive guide to Care and Support go to

The Consequences of Choosing the Wrong Level of Care!

If a Care Home doesn't offer the level of care you may need at a future date it may be worth considering somewhere that does.  It would be very distressing once your parent had settled in and made friends with other residents to be uprooted a couple of years later and sent somewhere else.

As we get older we need stability and familiar surroundings to feel safe.  It would be very confusing and unsettling to be passed around from one Care Home to another particularly for anyone suffering with dementia.

Click on the link here for further guidance on Choosing Residential Care for a loved one.

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