Top Tips - for selecting a care home for an older relative or parent

These are Bonnie Day’s top tips for people who find themselves in the position of having to choose a care home for their relative or someone close to them.

TOP TIP 1 LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF

The process you are going through is not an easy one, often undertaken at a time when you are under considerable stress. It can be a very emotional time of your life when you will often wonder if you have done the right thing. Many people say it is always difficult to leave their relative in the home after each and every visit. You are not alone with these feelings and the home should offer you support and comfort whenever necessary.

TOP TIP 2 CARING FOR YOUR RELATIVE

From the outset it is really important, whenever possible, to discuss the whole process with your relative who will be going into the care home. Naturally not everyone is in this position, but it is desirable to choose a care home with the relative alongside you as much as possible.

TOP TIP 3 ENLISTING SUPPORT FROM A SIGNIFICANT OTHER

It may also help to have a significant other to discuss the process with especially as this is a task which is often emotionally charged and sometimes undertaken in a rush. It could also be useful if the other person knows your relative as well as they might be able to bring a different perspective to the process.

TOP TIP 4 LISTENING TO OUTSIDE AGENCIES

Talk to appropriate outside agencies such as GPs, social workers, the Mental Health Team , Age UK,The Alzheimer’s Society about your need to place your relative in the best home for them. Local information regarding large organisations can be found through Google. Also friends may know of care homes with a good reputation in the area.

TOP TIP 5 USING A DIRECTORY

Locate a free directory or list from local council. Study the acronyms listed next to the care home in the directory, examples of which are: DE people with dementia LD people with learning disabilities MD people with mental illness OP people who need care because of old age PD people with physical disabilities This will enable you to see if the care home can meet the needs of your relative. When looking at the list you will have to consider whether the home is state or privately owned to match with your relative’s financial status. Obviously cost is a big consideration in this process. It is useful to make a mental note that the most expensive is not necessarily the best for your relative.

TOP TIP 6 LOOKING AT THE LOCATION

Consider the location of the home. How close is it to the people who are going to visit your relative? A good home which is a very long distance away from the people who will be the regular visitors, unfortunately, may not be the best choice.Many people going into care homes really need their loved ones to be able to make regular visits.So think about what the journey will be like, particularly in the winter months and the cost of petrol is a real consideration. Also find out if the home has a car park you can use as payment for parking may have to be factored into travel costs. If you don’t own a car think about bus routes, bus stops and railway stations. Also consider whether the home is situated in an area that your relative would like. Some relatives may like a bustling town atmosphere, others prefer the tranquillity of the countryside.

TOP TIP 7 MAKING LISTS

Make a long list of six homes with your relative/significant other and then schedule to visit in two sessions, visiting three homes at a time. This helps to remember the homes rather than choosing to visit six on the same day when they will blur into one! Write a list of questions,issues and preferences before you visit.

TOP TIP 8 MAKING THE MOST OF THE VISIT

Take your relative or significant other with you when appropriate and /or possible. Consider what your welcome is like at the front door. Is there a front door policy to safeguard your relative and is it adhered to? What is your initial greeting like, do staff smile? How clean is the home, what does it smell like? Were you offered a cup of tea and is there a lovely smell of homemade food cooking? Most importantly consider the personal qualities of the staff. Did they have time for you and did they really listen to you? Look and listen to how staff interact with residents already there. Are the activities mundane and childlike or stimulating and fun? Is the home warm or cool enough depending on the season? Ask to look at vacant rooms and consider if they would suit your relative. Think about what floor the room is on and any access to garden/patio and also which way the sun faces. Does the home have a visit from the hairdresser, manicurist, Pat dog or whoever your relative may want? Who is the GP who visits the home, how many times do they visit? Does the home offer a glass of wine with lunch and dinner? Is there a minibus for trips and outings? There will be other issues too which are pertinent to your relative.

TOP TIP 9 REFLECTING ON YOUR VISIT

Talk things through with others or make notes if you are on your own as soon as possible after your visit. This will help you remember things more clearly. Shortlist one or two homes for a revisit if you feel so inclined. Try not to convince yourself that somewhere was right if your heart tells you otherwise. Decide on what really matters. For example it maybe that your relative might prefer staff in crisp white uniforms, others prefer a more casual appearance.

TOP TIP 10 REVISITING YOUR FAVOURITES

It is perhaps wise to revisit a second time at least, because people can be on their best behaviour and the home may feel different the second time round. Make a list of things that you may have missed, walk around outside and unaccompanied so you can go at your own pace. Maybe arrange a second visit when you know the activities are taking place so you can see what they are like.Think and think again, this is an important decision and going back to TopTip 1 look after yourself.