Sep 23, 2022

A guide to finding a care home for your loved one

Choosing a care home for your loved one is often something that needs to be given a lot of thought. Not only are you choosing someone’s next home, but you’re also toying with the emotions you, your family and the person needing care have. To help make the process easier, here’s a guide to finding a suitable care home for your loved one.

Mark Topps
Mark Topps
Regional Business Manager

Table of contents

Be prepared

My biggest bit of advice is to take your time. You may feel like you’re being pressurised by family, social workers or even yourself – but this isn’t an overnight decision and you need to be prepared to spend time researching, visiting care homes and asking important questions.

Understand your loved one’s care needs

An integral part of this process is to speak to the person you’re sorting care for about what they want, their support needs and answer any questions or concerns they may have. If your loved one is unable to verbally communicate, they may have prepared written instructions about what they want to do in an advanced care plan.

Work out what type of home is most suitable

When it comes to looking at homes, there are several different types for you to consider.

Residential care homes

Residential homes provide 24-hour care for people who live in their own room or apartment but can enjoy communal areas with other residents. Residential services often have activities put on throughout the day, provide meals and drinks, assist with personal care needs and support people to achieve their goals and wishes.

This option is usually for people who are ageing, have reduced mobility, are no longer able to live independently etc.

Nursing homes

Nursing homes are similar to residential care homes but cater for people who have complex care needs that require input from a qualified nurse, like wound care and intravenous medication.

There’s a legal duty for this type of care home to have a nurse on site 24 hours a day.

Other options

There are also lots of alternative options you can consider, including day centres, care in your own home (domiciliary care), having a carer move in with your loved on (live-in care), sheltered accommodation, hospices and retirement villages.

Understandably, the option you choose will very much depend on the individual needs of your loved ones.

Research homes in your area

Search online

Your first port of call will be to do a quick Google search to see what homes you have in the local area. I’d also suggest speaking to any friends or colleagues who have relatives in care and asking them if they can recommend any services.

Inspection reports and ratings

Care homes have regular inspections to review the care they’re delivering and the reports from these are publicly available. Here are the reports for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.


There are lots of reviews available on Google and through care home directories and comparison sites like Autumna, Carehome.co.uk and Lottie.


Care homes should be advertising their services on dedicated websites. Have a look for these and see if you can more about a service, their values and their vision.

Social media pages

A picture is worth a thousand words! Have a look to see if homes you’re interested in are sharing updates on activities and resident wellbeing.

Visit each home

Once you have an idea of the homes you think would be suitable, contact them to arrange a tour. Before you go, write a list of things you’d like to know and be sure to ask them as you view the facilities.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Can I see your activity planner? Are there are wide variety of activities (internally and externally) and how often are these happening?
  • Can I see your food menu? Is there a wide variety of foods and can specific needs be catered for? Can my loved one’s favourite meal be added to the menu?
  • How often are cinemas, hairdressers, gyms etc. accessible?
  • What are your visiting arrangements? Are these scheduled or can I turn up at set times?
  • Can you support my loved one with all aspects of their care needs?
  • How will you update me about my loved one’s care?
  • What are the fees? Are there any additional costs for things like newspapers, haircuts etc?
  • How many staff do you have and how long are their shifts?

When you’re on your tour, try chatting with residents to find out what they think of the service or observe if they seem happy and content. Make notes of the things you liked and take photos so that you can then reflect on these later (be sure to ask first!)

Choose the best home

Once you’ve completed all your tours, sit down and read through all your notes and look over any pictures you took. Are there any stark differences between the homes you visited? Are you leaning towards a particular service?

This is by far the most difficult part of the process and can be daunting – but remember, you’ve done your research, you’ve seen each facility and you’ve asked all the right questions. Whatever decision you make, you’re going into fully informed and are making your choice based off of the needs of your loved one.

Take a breath

I hope this have given you an insight into the first steps when looking for a care home for your loved one and remember, it’s never a straightforward journey for anyone. You’ll have times of self-doubt, pressure from around you and other emotions which can easily consume you, but use your gut instinct, ask lots of questions and ask again if you need something clarifying.

A good care home will spend time reassuring you and your loved one and won’t spend time trying to do a hard sell.

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