Find a care home in 5 easy steps

Having to find a care home for you or a loved one is one of the most important things you will do and getting this right is key to a comfortable life in your later years.

At UK Care guide, we have set out, below, in detail, the 5 steps that you need to go through to find a care home that is perfect for you or a loved one.

We have also produced a help 2 minute video that guides you through the key 5 steps to finding a care home.

You can use our care home search facility to look for homes in your local area when you are a choosing a care home.

A popular alternative to care homes is Live in Care. Watch this short video that explains more about how they work.

5 steps to finding a care home

Our five steps, which are provided in more detailed below, to help you find a care home are broadly broken down as follows:

Step 1- How to choose a care home – First identify what you need

When you set of on the journey of how to choose a care home, the first thing you need to do is decide what kind of care home you need.

Residential care

Residential care is designed for those that need round the clock care, whilst providing any practical, emotional and personal support. Residential care often allows residents to maintain their independence whilst giving them the necessary support with day to day tasks such as eating, washing, house-keeping and bathing.

Residential care with 24 hour specialist nursing carefind a care home

Some residential care homes have a qualified nurse onsite 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Typically, 24 hour nursing care is required where a resident has an illness or a physical disability. This might also include those that have longer term medical conditions and those who need rehabilitation support.

The biggest difference between a residential care home and a residential care home with 24 hour specialist nursing care is that you will find more staff in a home with nursing care. This is because the residents require more regular support with their daily tasks and will often have more complex needs.

Dementia care (including Alzheimer’s)

Most residential care homes now offer dementia care support. Dementia is a broad term that covers a range of illnesses that impact the brain. The most common of this is Alzheimer’s.

Therefore, dementia is an illness that needs to be treated by specialist carers who are able to recognise that dementia impacts people in different ways.

Respite or short-stay care

Respite care means that someone moves in to a care home for a defined period of time. This is often used if the carer needs a break, if the person is recovering from an illness or specialist care is needed. If you move in to a care home this can be for a period of days, weeks or a few months.

Intermediate care

Intermediate care is designed to offer an alternative to hospital stays with an aim to help individuals not becoming reliant on, or needing, long-term care.

Intermediate care can be provided in a care home or can be provided in your own home and is often used following a surgical procedure, a fall or a coordinated is charge from 

Specialist care

Some care homes provide support in specialist care areas. This would typical include those with physical and learning disabilities, mental health concerns and addiction problems, such as alcohol or drug.

Palliative or end of life care

Palliative care or end of life care provides support for those who are usually within 12 months of death. The care helps the person to be as comfortable as is possible and to die with dignity.

Palliative care will try and make you as comfortable as possible by trying to manage any pain, discomfort or distressing symptoms. Palliative care will also provide emotional, spiritual and psychological support to family and carers.

Step 2) Research and short-list potential homes

Once you have identified the type of care that you need, the next step is to identify a suitable location for the care home.

When short-listing your care homes, think about what you want from the home and see if the short listed care home provides those facilities.

You can visit the page of the short-listed care homes of this website and use that to do your initial research.

To help you, we have split the key things to think about in to 4 areas.

Each of the care homes that have an enhanced listing on this website have answered the questions relating to care home, communal and room facilities so this should help you narrow down and short-list the right care home for you.


  • How easily can friends and family access the care home
  • How easily can you access the care home
  • Does it need to be close to any local amenities such as a religious place or even local shops
  • Does it need to be close to local transport

Care home facilities

  • What languages are spoken by the staff
  • What type of food is served and how much choice do residents have
  • Is there a garden
  • How often is bedding changed
  • Are their on-site parking facilities
  • Is there a resident’s kitchenette

Communal facilities

  • Does the care home arrange trips to the local shops or day trips
  • Is their access to communal books
  • Is their access to a communal computer and the internet
  • Is there a television and DVD player in the communal area
  • What exercise and keep fit activities and facilities are there

Resident room facilities

  • Does the room have a television and DVD player
  • Does the room have access to cable or sky television
  • Does the room have en-suite facilities
  • Does the room have a small wine fridge
  • Is there access to a private balcony

Step 3) Check the standard of your short-listed care home

The regular who is responsible for monitoring and inspecting organisations that provide care services is called the Care Quality Commission (CQC). All care providers will have been registered and been inspected by the Care Quality Commission.

The mission statement on the Care Quality Commission Website is:

“We make sure that hospitals, care homes, dental and general practices and other care services in England provide people with safe, effective and high-quality care, and we encourage them to improve”.

You can go on to the Care Quality Commission website and search for the latest independent inspection report for your short-listed care home. It is important that you do this when you are choosing a care home. Here is also a video that tells you more about what the Care Quality Commission do.

Step 4) Visit the short-listed care homes

Once you have identified the short-listed care homes that you visit it is really important that you pay them a visit. Whilst the care home will always try and make a great impression when you visit it is important that you look around and make sure you ask a range of questions.

Hopefully you will find all the facilities that were listed on by the care home provider on this site. However, to help you we have listed the following questions to ask or the issues for you to observe.

The staff and management

  • Do the staff seem polite and courteous when they are talking to residents
  • Do the staff seem to be actively helping residents with physical tasks
  • Do the staff speak the languages you need
  • How many staff are their onsite at any one time
  • Do the staff have the right skills for your needs, eg training and experience in dementia care
  • What do the staff do to get to know the residents
  • Did the manager meet you and were they open when responding to questions.

The communal areas

  • Is there a TV and DVD player for the residents
  • Are the chairs placed facing the television or are their breakaway areas for residents to sit together and talk
  • Is their more than one communal area so that residents not wishing to watch TV can go to talk
  • Is there access to a telephone and is it in a private area
  • Do the communal areas look clean and tidy or do they need a lightweight vacuum cleaner
  • Are the communal areas open 24 hours or for a defined period
  • Do residents get access to their own kitchenette to prepare their own food
  • Do residents appear to be happy and responsive

Outside areas

  • Is their access to a private garden and does it look well kept
  • Are residents allowed to sit out in the garden area and are their facilities to do so
  • Is their access to on-site parking for visitors

Facilities in the care home

  • Is there a facility to wash and iron clothes or do the staff do this
  • Is their access to nearby religious facilities or a prayer room in the home
  • Can meals be provided in line with requirements (eg vegetarian, halal, kosher)
  • How varied are daily meals. Do residents have a choice


  • How often can visitors come and are their time restrictions
  • Can visitors bring in their food for the residents
  • Is there a pub, café or restaurant nearby for you to take residents too
  • Are visitors encouraged to take residents out or join them for a meal in the care home

The resident’s room facilities

  • Is the bedroom easily accessible?
  • If the room is on an upper floor, is their access to a stairlift?
  • Does the room have a TV and DVD player
  • Does the room have access to cable or sky television
  • Does the room have a private telephone point
  • How often is the bedroom cleaned
  • Are their en-suite facilities and how easily are they accessible
  • Is there a safe to allow residents to store any personal/private items
  • Is their access to a balcony

Keeping residents engaged and active

  • What does the care home do to keep residents engaged and active:
    • Does it have regular trip to the local shops
    • Does it arrange excursions
    • Does it have opportunities for residents to exercise regularly
    • Does it have a keep-fit area
    • Are their daily activities for the residents such as bingo, games, classes
    • Is their access to a library of books and magazines, and if so how up-to-date are these

Step 5) Work out how much your care home will cost

This is often a difficult area, as you and your loved one’s begin to understand the cost impact of moving in your chosen care home.

When you are finding a care home, it is essential that you understand what financial help is available to you, and what you will be required to pay when you are looking to find a care home of your choice.

You can use our care home fees calculator to estimate what your care home fees will be.  You will find that the costs often differ depending on where you live.  You can access the calculator here.

At UK Care Guide, we have helped to make this difficult process as simple as possible to understand, and you can get more information here:

  • NHS Continuing Healthcare Funding – Here we set out whether you may entitled to the NHS meeting the costs of your care, and in particular if you choose a home of your choice.
  • Claiming State Benefits – Make sure you claim all the benefits that you are entitled to, as there will e an assumption you are in receipt of what you are entitled to when assessment of your financial affairs is made.
  • How much will you need to spend on your care fees – We have produced a handy care fees calculator to help you estimate the costs of moving in to a care home in your local area.  When you begin the process to choose a care home, you will start to see that the costs can range from £400 to over £1,500 per week.
  • How you can meet your care fees – There are 6 primary ways in which you can pay the fees of your chosen your care home.  We have set the pros and cons out and when it comes to choose a home, you can decide which of the payment options will work best for you.

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