Expert Advice: Looking for 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. Often our loved ones have increased the pressure by asking us to promise never to “put them in a home”. This makes an already traumatic experience even more so. 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 some form of sheltered housing/extra care facility. 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 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 relative 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 that they need and deserve.

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 make a senior member of staff 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 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 Alderwood Care Home the Registered Manager Nikki Leaney invites you to get in touch to find out what their dedicated staff team can offer and to start to build that all important relationship which will give you peace of mind in the future.