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Don't be embarrassed about asking lots of questions. It is sensible to do as much research as you can when you're making such an important decision about your future.

Make notes on each home and take photos if possible - this will help when you consider your options later. Take a checklist to ensure there aren’t any questions you forget to ask.

Make sure that you ask to see a copy of the home’s Service User Guide (a brochure setting out aims, objectives, facilities and services) and a copy of the most recent CQC report (which evaluates how the home operates).  As you are looking around you may want to think about the following areas:

First impressions

Turn up 15 minutes early for a viewing so that you can sit and make some initial assessments – first impressions can always be a useful indicator of suitability. Remember that homes are run as businesses, so sometimes it’s important to dig deeper and not solely rely on gut feeling. Try to assess how you or your loved one would feel in the home by considering things such as:

  • Is the atmosphere friendly and homely?
  • Are the furnishings up to your expectations and does it smell pleasant?
  • Do residents seem well looked after, active and happy?


The home

As well as the Service User Guide it’s also imperative that you obtain a copy of any Terms and Conditions of residence. You may want to know:

  • If the home run by the local authority or is it independently owned?
  • Who runs the home - is it the owner or manager?
  • How many residents are there and how many staff are on duty at different times of the day?
  • What qualifications and training do staff have?
  • Is there a written contract/agreement with the home?



Your room will become your own private place where you will spend a considerable amount of time, so it is hugely important that you’ll be happy and well catered for within your personal quarters. You may wish to consider the following:

  • Will the room accommodate your personal possessions or some of your own special small pieces of furniture?
  • Is there an aerial socket for your own television?
  • Can you have your own telephone with a separate number?
  • How often is your room cleaned and is your bed made for you?
  • Is it bright and well decorated?
  • Can you have your room redecorated?  If so, who pays?



Facilities will vary immensely depending on which care home you choose. A lot of the time the facilities you require will depend on what level of care you need. It is important to ask as many questions as possible about a home’s facilities when you visit. Here are some suggestions:

  • Can you manage any steps in or around the home, and if you are in a wheelchair, is it a building accessible to all facilities?
  • Are there plenty of toilet facilities?
  • What are the arrangements for laundry and dry-cleaning?
  • Is there more than one lounge so that you can be quiet if you feel like it?
  • Is there a safe garden and can residents use it?
  • What areas are available to see visitors and to relax?


Food and catering

It is crucial not to under-estimate the importance of eating food that you enjoy on a daily basis. A good balanced diet is good for both physical and mental well-being. When visiting a potential home, you can ask the following questions:

  • Can you choose what and when you’d like to eat?
  • Can meals be taken in your room if you wish?
  • Can you have/make a drink or snack whenever you want?
  • Are visitors allowed to have a meal with you?
  • Can you choose whom to sit with in the dining room?



Homes can vary tremendously when it comes to making sure that residents are as active and stimulated as possible. Some homes do not provide many activities at all for their residents, whilst others provide external trips as well as group games in the communal living area. The types of activities available are vital when choosing a home as it can make all the difference to your well-being. Some questions to ask are:

  • Is there a planned programme of activities and can you see any examples?
  • Are residents consulted on what hobbies and interests they have?
  • Is there an active residents committee?
  • What form of exercise, if any, are residents encouraged to take?
  • Does the home take residents on organised trips outside the home?
  • Does the home have access to transport?
  • Can relatives or friends help with activities?



All homes will have a set of rules for residents. It is important to determine what these are and whether you could live with them before you choose a home. There may be some areas covered that could surprise you, for example:

  • Are there set times for going to bed and getting up or having a bath?
  • Are visitors only allowed at certain times and are they allowed to stay in your own room?
  • Can relatives or friends help with personal care if you want them to?
  • Can you consume alcohol in communal areas or in your own room?
  • Will staff give you support to continue to practise your religion and can residents be taken to places of worship?



The most important thing to consider when dealing with cost is the need to be clear and upfront from the outset. The last thing you will want at an already confusing time is being dumped with hidden costs and extra fees. Remember, if you are paying your fees from restricted capital, it may not last forever. If there is a chance that funds could run out it is vital to ask if the home will accommodate you on local authority funding. Other questions can include:

  • How much are the fees?
  • What is included in these fees, e.g. the cost of any personal hygiene or medical needs and personal laundry?
  • Are there any additional charges?
  • Are fees payable monthly/weekly?
  • How often do fees increase?
  • What happens if you go on holiday or spend time in hospital?


Like every big decision in life it is imperative that you research recommendations for your potential home. Do not just rely on the home itself to provide you with testimonials – get as much independent feedback as possible. You should also speak with friends and relatives for their recommendations, your GP and your local Social Services department (which should be able to provide a list of registered homes in your area). Questions to consider are:

  • Does the home have any relatives or residents feedback available for you to see?
  • Have you checked out the latest CQC report for the home and does the home have it available for you to review?
  • Does the home display relative's communications or thank you letters?


Next steps

When you’re completely comfortable that you have all the information that you need, you should be in the best position to make an informed choice.  Even at this stage it is not uncommon to ask for a trial period although natuarally this will be at the homes discretion.

Once you’ve made your decision, find out about availability then contact your social worker, if you have one, and make them aware of your choice.

Next you need to ask the home to assess your relative.  All homes are required to do a pre-admission assessment to ensure they can meet the persons needs. (This may not happen until the home has a vacancy).

Once the home has made the assessment, and if applicable, the trial visit has taken place, arrange a moving in date.


With such an enormous amount of information to consider, we have included all of the detail from this section in a free and easy to use guide that you can download and read at your own leisure In support of the guide we’ve also created a checklist which we advise that you print out and take with you when you visit your potential homes . This will ensure that you ask all those practical questions that will be crucial in helping you choose the correct care home to suit your needs.






Useful contacts

Please bear in mind that this is only a guide and whilst we have taken every effort to make it as comprehensive as possible, please do try to talk to other bodies for their advice and recommendations.

Age Concern: the UK's largest organisation working with and for older people
Tel: 0800 00 99 66 or

Care Quality Commission: regulates, inspects and reviews all adult social care services in the public, private and voluntary sectors in England Tel: 03000 616161 or

Counsel and Care For the Elderly: a charity that gives advice and information to older people, their relatives and carers on community care, care homes and housing with care
Tel: 0845 300 7585 or

Elderly Accommodation Counsel:  provides advice on elderly care, including specialist information on sheltered housing, extra care housing, assisted living, close care housing and retirement villages Tel: 020 7820 1343 or

Registered Nursing Home Association: campaigns strongly for high standards in nursing home care and provides a list of registered nursing homes. Tel: 0121 451 1088 or visit

Residential & Domiciliary Care Benchmarking (RDB): provides independent assessment of care quality with a star rating system

United Kingdom Home Care Association (UKHCA) is the body that was set up to promote the best possible standard of home care provision to older people
Tel: 020 8288 5291 or