How to sniff out a good care home (Literally…)

So, how do you find a good care or nursing home?

It’s a question that I’ve been asked dozens of times in the last couple of months.

My first free tip is trust your nose. If there’s a stale urine smell, you may want to think twice. 

What you need most is a caring and compassionate care home with a good strong team team of staff. So try not to just talk to the manager, ask to talk to one or two of the carers on duty. Ask them a couple of questions – good ones to start with are, “How long have you been here?”, “What do you like about working at this care home?”. If the staff you talk to have only been with the home a short time, ask the manager about the staffing – who’s the longest serving staff member? Most long-standing homes should have a few staff who have been there many years. Having lots of new staff can mean that staff are not happy working at the home, don’t hesitate to ask these questions, your relative could be staying here for a very long time and whether you or the state are paying, they are all expensive.

There’s another classic question – “Would you like your Mum or Dad to live here?”; make sure to keep eye contact when asking this one and check for curious hesitation or discomfort as this may suggest that they wouldn’t.

All homes have to be registered with the Care Quality Commission. Make sure you check out the home’s latest inspection report. The CQC try and make it easy by having some headlines – basically ticks are good, crosses are bad. If the home you are looking at has a cross, closely check this aspect out – what was wrong at the inspection?, more importantly what are they doing about it?

The care provided should be person centred. This means that the home should take in to account what your relative’s like and dislike are. Whether they prefer a bath or a shower, what they like to watch on the television or what they like to eat. Seek out people who live there already, they will likely give you a real answer as to how the home takes care of them.

Think about the needs of your relative. If they have a distinct diagnosis, such as dementia, then look for a home that specialises in dementia. Check what they do that’s special – Can they demonstrate that their staff have had special training in dementia care, do they have visiting professionals to undertake therapy such as art or reminiscence? 

Once you leave, think back. Did you feel that the home spent time getting to know you and your relative. Did they take good care of you while you were there? Were they sensitive to your needs at what is a terribly difficult time? If you’re not quite sure, go back again. Most good homes wouldn’t mind you popping back unannounced, you might have a brief wait whilst they are able to give you some time but you should get a good sense of what it’s like when they’re not expecting a visitor.

There’s a great checklist available for when you are looking here and it’s free from The Alzheimer’s Society.

If you’d like help in finding your relative a good care home then please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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