How to Choose the Right Care Home for Your Elderly Relative

A care home should be a comfortable and happy place for your elderly relative to live. It should feel like a home. When choosing somewhere for an elderly relative, you need to begin by thinking about what they need and want from the care home. There are many different types of care home to consider.

It goes without saying that all care homes offer personal care and accommodation but there are care homes that are specialists that will offer additional resident services for those who have greater needs. There are privately run care homes, council-run care homes and care homes run by charities.

Here is an idea of the different care home types:

  • Care homes – these offer help with personal care (i.e. toilet needs, washing and dressing). They often offer social things too like outings or trips. 
  • Nursing homes – these will provide assistance from nurses as well as offering personal care.
  • Dementia care homes – these are home specifically for people with dementia
  • Dual-registered care homes – these are for people who need nursing care and personal care. Residents might move here when they just need personal care and it means they won’t have to move should they need nursing care in the future.

Does my relative need a care home now?

It might have been suggested that your elderly relative needs a care home. Perhaps they’ve had an accident or are beginning to need more and more help each day. There are other options to begin with if you feel the time might not yet be right for a care home. These are:

  • Home adaptations to make life easier
  • Getting home support (i.e. visits from carers)
  • Moving into extra-care or sheltered housing. This means your elderly relative can still live independently but will get support too.

What do you need to consider when choosing a care home?

When you look for a care home and find one that seems suitable, you should visit it to see if it is suitable and can do so more than once. You need to find out as much information as you can such as the benefits the care home offers and identifying any common risks so that your final choice is an informed one.

Before your visit, you should:

  1. Ensure the care home provides the care that your relative will need or might need in time.
  2. Find out if the care home has vacancies or enquire about its waiting list.
  3. Read all of the brochures and literature available and speak to the manager.
  4. Read the home’s latest inspection report. You can find this on the CQC website or the home should provide you with it.

Asking questions

During a visit, you should ask yourself and the manager some questions. For example:

First impressions

  • Are the building and garden well looked after?
  • Is the garden accessible?
  • Do they feel inviting?
  • Are there nice views?
  • Are the staff friendly?
  • Does the home smell and feel clean?
  • Are the rooms nicely decorated?


  • Can family and friends get to the home easily?
  • What is parking like?

Meeting needs

  • Are the residents’ needs and situations assessed beforehand?
  • Are there named key workers for residents?
  • Are families involved in care decisions?
  • Do current residents have similar needs to your elderly relative?
  • Are the bathroom facilities adequate for your relative’s needs? i.e. are there raised toilet seats, mobility aids and handrails?
  • Does the care home have a link with a GP practice?
  • Are there arrangements for travel to clinics and hospital visits?

Daily considerations

  • Are there adequate security arrangements?
  • Is there an alarm system or call bell?
  • Are there pictures or signs to help residents know where things are?
  • How much control do residents have over their routine? Can they choose their bedtime, clothing, etc.?
  • Can residents bring things from home like belongings or furniture?
  • Is storage in bedrooms secure?
  • How is personal money handled?


  • How do residents eat? 
  • Is there a meal choice?
  • Are snacks available?
  • Can residents have food in their rooms?

Final considerations 


Fees for care homes vary across the United Kingdom. On average, care homes cost £30,000 per year just for residential care and £40,000 per year for nursing care. The BBC website has a calculator where you can work out care costs and see if your local council will contribute.


As this will be your elderly relative’s new home, it is important to consider their priorities as compromises might be needed. The cost will be a big factor as, presumably, it will be the location. The size of the home might be a consideration for your relative too. If your relative has pets, it’s important to consider whether they can be somewhere that allows pets.

Final words

There are lots of things to consider when it comes to choosing a care home and it can be a very unsettling time for all involved. There is lots of support available from charities like Age UK and the Salvation Army.


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