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6 Important questions to ask when visiting a care home

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If you are currently searching for care providers and find yourself lost in all of the options and information available, we recommend that you visit a few of your favourite locations and take along some pre-prepared questions to aid your decision.

Visiting a nursing home will help you get a good indication of whether it is the right place for you or your loved one. You want to make sure that it is a relaxing, clean and happy place to live, that it can fulfil your or your loved one’s needs, and that it is somewhere you could envisage yourself or your loved one calling ‘home’.

Choosing a reputable care home is a big decision. It is important to come to the visit prepared so that you can find out everything you need. Below, we have listed our top 6 questions to ask to get you started, but we would suggest that you generate more based on what matters to you:

  1. What does the fee cover?

We recommend that you find out exactly what is supplied within the care home fees, including the activities offered, the room contents (such as furniture) and meals.

Find out what is excluded and requires additional charges; this could be washing or WIFI. This allows you to be fully aware from the outset of realistic costs and means that there is less likelihood of additional cost surprises later.

You could also ask about payment terms – if a deposit is due upfront, how often you have to pay, how you pay, on what days, and what the increase often is year on year.

Do not forget to ask about Funded Nursing Care and whether or not the home will keep this non means tested benefit which your loved one may be eligible for. If the benefit is returned to you this can be a very helpful contribution to the fees.

  1. What social activities do you run?

Social activities are important. You need to check if the care home runs activities that you or your loved one would enjoy, such as gardening or arts and crafts. Ask to see the activities schedule and ask whether they invite the community to the home, such as the local nursery or visiting performers. It is also a good idea to ask if you can meet a few of the residents so you can ask them about their experiences of the home and see first hand how social the community is.

  1. How many residents are there to each staff member?

You want to be sure that you or your loved one will get the care that you or they need. Look at whether the staff are running around, or whether they are relaxed. Do they seem happy or unhappy? Ask the care home manager about the staff-to-resident ratio. Does this change from during the day to night or at weekends?

If you have or your loved one has dementia, you may prefer familiar and consistent staff. You may want to know if the care home regularly takes agency staff or not, and how high the staff turnover rate is.

  1. What are the arrangements for visitors?

You or your loved one will want visitors, including family, friends and pets. It would be well-advised to ask what the rules are around visiting, such as if there is parking available, the hours in which people are allowed to visit, if they have to book in advance or whether they can drop in, how long they can stay, how many are allowed to visit at once, if they can stay for meals and what the charge is, and if they can stay overnight. Due to today’s concerns with COVID, it is also worth asking about safety protocols such as a requirement to wear masks.

  1. Does the home provide the level of care you may need in the future?

Transitioning to a care home, yourself or a loved one may only initially require limited care, but you’ll need to be sure that as requirements grow over time they can be supported. It is important to identify if the care home can provide end of life care and increase the support they provide you as time goes on. Ask how and when care needs are assessed and if family members can be involved in decision-making. Do you have specific dementia care needs or does the care home specialise in this area for future possible needs?

  1. What food do you offer?

Food is an important factor when considering a care home. You want to make sure that the food will be enjoyable for you or your loved one and that the staff can meet any specific dietary requirements that you may have. Maybe you are vegetarian or are lactose-intolerant. It is worth speaking to the cooking staff to tell them your exact requirements in order to establish if they can be accommodated. You could also ask how often meals are provided, at what times and if this is flexible. You may prefer to eat in your room or with other residents, so it is worth enquiring where you can eat. If you like a varied menu, it is worth seeing how often it changes.

Whether you are looking for a care home in Hampshire, Wiltshire, or anywhere in the UK, these questions will help you begin to think about what you want to ask when considering your options.

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