Choosing a care home can be a frustrating process and all too often it’s guided by money. We want to hear how you navigated the maze.
Our latest research has unearthed huge variations in the fees local authorities pay for residential care. We submitted freedom of information requests to 180 local authorities across the UK and found the amount you could get could be halved, depending on where you live.
You can read more about the local authorities that pay the most and least for residential care online or in the November issue of Which? magazine.
While working on this investigation I was struck by how often concerns about the cost of care tend to overshadow what you get and whether it will meet your relative’s needs.
In the article, our two case studies both report good outcomes, with their parents receiving residential care in homes they feel happy about. One is self-funded, the other receives support from the local authority – but in both cases they chose their home on the basis of recommendation and a personal visit.
Shop before you buy
It seems obvious that you should ‘shop around’ before choosing somewhere to live, but all too often admissions from hospital are carried out against the clock in a state of duress. Some local authorities can be very helpful, but many families still struggle; balancing proximity with cost and weighing up what’s ideal with what’s available.
So how do you choose? Firstly, know what homes are suitable for your relative’s needs. Do they require nursing as well as help with personal care? Do they suffer from dementia and require specialist care? Importantly, will the home be able to accommodate changing needs over time? If you’re self-funding a care home, will the same home accept local authority fees if your money runs out?
Once you’ve ensured that your relative’s needs can be met, you might look at other factors. Look at the size of rooms, arrangements for meals and social activities and generally what the atmosphere’s like when you go and visit.
Your care home experiences
Fortunately, there are independent reports (from the Care Quality Commission) you can use to do your homework. You can find these on our Which? Elderly Care website, together with other details and a searchable directory to help narrow your choice.
What are your experiences of choosing a care home? We’re gathering your stories for our future work so please let us know below.
What do you think are the most important things to consider when you’re choosing a care home? Was there anything you wanted to know but found it difficult to get answers to? Do you have any advice on what you would do differently if you were starting all over again?