Care homes are usually very willing to answer any questions you might have. Don't get put off though if the home asks to call you back at a time to suit you.
However, the more information you can gather over the 'phone and during your visit, the more confident you will feel that you have made the right decision. Questions can be grouped into:
- Questions about administration and care home fees
- Questions about the accommodation and facilities
- Quesitons about the social, health and well-being of your relative
Useful questions to ask about admin and care home fees:
What are the weekly fees?
What do the fees include and exclude?
When are fees invoiced and are fees paid in advance or arrears?
When are fees usually reviewed and how much notice will be given for any fee increases?
What extras should you expect on top of the fees?
What are the charges for phone calls, Sky or broadband?
Does the care home arrange visits to/from, for example, opticians, dentists, GPs, chiropodists?
If services are provided externally, will staff accompany your relative on these visits?
Are there activities that incur a charge?
What contents insurance does the home cover for your relatives belongings or do they need to get their own policy?
Terms and conditions of Residency: these should all be set out in the contract. You should receive this before your relative is admitted.
Questions to ask about the accommodation and facilities
Are there available beds?
When would space be available? Is there a waiting list?
Does the home smell?
What level of care is available? Can special care needs be met, even during the night? If your relative’s condition should worsen (for example, they needed nursing care rather than just personal care), could the care home provide this?
What other facilities are available within the home - is there a gym, a solarium, quiet lounges, somewhere to sit with your family away from other residents, somewhere to sit with healthcare professionals such as the GP?
What social activities are on offer for residents to take part in? Is there any evidence of this around the home?
What’s the surrounding area like, and is it easy for friends and family to reach by car or public transport?
Are there set visiting times?
Can guests stay for meals? Are there charges for this?
Is the home secure at night? Can residents leave the home if they wish and are able to do so? Are there measures in place to ensure the safety of those residents who may wander or have dementia?
Is there somewhere safe and secure where your relative could keep valuables, such as ID, credit cards, money and jewellery?
Is smoking allowed?
If your relative's care needs change, how is this handled and how are you as a relative informed of the change? How does the home keep relatives informed? If you, or your relative, are unhappy with any aspect of care, what is the procedure for giving feedback or raising complaints?
Questions to ask about your relative's potential room
Can you look at a couple of available rooms? Would it be possible for your relative to move rooms later, if they wanted?
Can the room be locked, is there lockable furniture in the room?
Could your relative bring their own furniture and possessions?
Are there private/en-suite toilet and bathroom facilities?
Is there a telephone point in the room, or somewhere that your relative could make private phone calls?
Is there an emergency call system available in each room and in lounges / bathrooms?
Questions about the health and social well-being of your relative
Does the manager or member of staff who shows you around demonstrate concern and interest in your relative's care needs?
Does the home seem caring and kind?
Does the home have any bad odours?
How many staff are on duty during the day and at night? Do there seem to be enough staff on duty when you’re there? Are they friendly? Do they make time to talk to individual residents?
Is the food cooked fresh on the premises? Can you see a menu or even sample a meal while you are there?
Can your relative come to try a meal for themselves?
Are mealtimes flexible?
Where is food served? Does the home offer a 'room service' i.e. could your relative eat in their room if they preferred?
Is there a safe and pleasant garden/outdoor space for residents?
Is there a communal lounge with or without TV?
If your relative has reduced mobility, are all areas of the care home (their room, communal areas) easily accessible? Are there grab rails in the bathroom, for example, if needed? Are they secure?
Will the home help with medication? Could your relative self-medicate if they preferred?
Is there a private room, other than bedrooms, where residents can meet friends or health professionals?
It can be very useful to visit a home with another relative or friend. It is also useful to visit the home at different times of the day if you have time. Often the attitude of the staff and the smell of the home can affect the way you feel about it. It can be helpful to discuss this sort of thing with a friend or relative after your visit.