By Helen Calder

Choosing a care or nursing home can be a challenging and emotionally highly charged task, particularly if you have a relative who is reluctant to leave their own home but needs to. In my experience, men are usually more reluctant than women to leave their own homes!

Here’s a list of things to consider when making a choice, to help you and your loved one focus on the practicalities required and hopefully not get too overwhelmed by the emotional aspects of this big change.

choosing a nursing home

In the UK the Care Quality Commission (CQC) website is a great place to start.

On there you can search by postcode. I’d suggest only considering places which have outstanding and good ratings for everything. If you know somewhere that has lower ratings at least ask them questions about why the rating wasn’t so good & check what the latest CQC report actually says.

Things to consider include:

1. Location in terms of convenience for those who will visit most frequently

2. CQC rating i.e. only consider homes where all aspects have scored good or outstanding.

3. Fees: what’s included i.e. are there any extras and what level of care does that include? What level of care required reduces or needs to increase and how is that assessed?

4. The ambience of the home, is it friendly and welcoming. How does it compare to any homes you already know (but possibly not in the right location).

5. How does it smell i.e. not urine or cabbage!

6. How clean are the bedrooms and communal rooms? Look under the beds and in the corners of the bathroom floor.

7. What are the residents’ rooms and communal rooms like especially the residents’ rooms currently available? Check which rooms they are offering you.

  • Does the preferred room have ensuite facilities? A shower & toilet is important, particularly if incontinence becomes an issue. As someone gets older they are more likely to need assistance with a bath so an en suite bath becomes less important than a shower. A seat in the shower is often helpful.
  • Is there a view from the room: this becomes more important if someone becomes bedbound or room bound?
  • Is all furniture provided or can a resident have some/all of their own furniture?
  • Are hospital style beds provided/available when required?
  • Check that personal pictures, ornaments etc are allowed.
  • Are there phones in residents’ rooms? If not can one be installed? Check charges for installation, line rental and call charges (which may be part of the home’s telephone contract.
  • Is there internet or can it be installed?
  • Are there emergency call buttons in residents’ rooms?

8. In the communal lounges etc is the seating in small groups or one big circle facing a communal TV? The former is infinitely preferable.

9. Are there gardens and outside spaces where residents can sit

10. What’s the food like? Ask to see a menu and preferably go in the dining room when residents are eating lunch.

11. Check arrangements if a resident would prefer to eat in their room

12. Check what level of activities & outings are offered

13. What level of medical care is available onsite eg qualified nurses: during the day, 24 hours?

14. What arrangements are there for GP visits to the home or for taking residents to the GP? What is the situation if a resident needs to go to an outpatients hospital appointment (some homes charge extra for this)

15. Does the home provide wheelchairs or would you need to supply your own? Is all furniture provided or can a resident have some of their own furniture.

Related: Caring For Elderly Parents – Best To Plan Ahead

16. How much parking is there for visitors & how easy is it to collect a resident from the front door if you are taking them out.

17. What are the staff like? How do they treat residents? How do they treat you? What is the morale like? How accessible is the manager/matron if you want a conversation?

18. Ask to speak to a family member of a current resident and to a current resident, preferably without being accompanied by a member of staff.

19. If you have shortlisted one/some homes after visiting have a good look at the contract especially the notice period if someone dies. Sometimes it’s until you move out all belongings, some it’s 4 weeks. Also, how much of the fee is payable if the resident is admitted to the hospital.

20. Is the home eligible for financial contributions from the NHS/social services (UK)? Also, check if the resident will get the following nursing care when discharged from the hospital (it seems to have a different name in every NHS Trust!) It is not means-tested but there is a scoring exercise to see what level of ongoing nursing will be required.

21. Is the home able to keep residents if they need nursing and/or dementia care including end of life care?

We hope you found this list useful. Please share it if you did so someone else can also be helped. 

You may also like: When Roles Reverse – Looking After Older Parents and  Lasting Power Of Attorney For Ageing Parents 

nursing home

Helen Calder felt called to work in the Christian sector after a management career in the glass and brewing industries and spent a year studying theology at St John’s College Nottingham where she particularly focused on the pastoral care of the dying and bereaved, In 1991 she was appointed as director of administration for All Souls Church, Langham Place. From 1999 to 2016 Helen worked at the Evangelical Alliance, since 2007 as executive director: finance and services. She has been a trustee of several Christian charities. She now has a portfolio career that includes mentoring and consultancy in the charity sector. Helen has personally chosen care and nursing homes for elderly relatives on three occasions.

Last Updated on February 1, 2023 by Editorial Staff

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