Choosing a home for a relative or even yourself is a minefield loaded with confusion, paperwork and guilt. Today I’m going to touch on the basics of how to pick a home that is suitable. In future blogs I will get more involved in the politics and paperwork, but today I’m keeping things simple with my 5 top tips.
tip 1- trust your gut
I know it sounds too simple. The vibe you get when you walk into a home is always a good indicator of what the rest of the home is like and the management style. How are you greeted- do the staff ensure you sign into the guest book (a good clue to the security of the home). Regardless of wether your appointment is booked you should still be able to have a tour. Smell is an obvious one- lack of smell is a good sign where as strong cleaning smells or air fresheners could be covering up problems. It is also good to remember that you are looking for a “home” not a hotel or department store. Many new homes are staged by interior designers with beautiful art, statues and furniture. It gives a great wow factor but do you want to live there and are those beautiful chairs comfortable to sit in every day?
tip 2 – try before you buy
In an ideal world it is always best to book a couple of days trial “respite” stay to try a home out (although very often the situation does not allow this). If you do try to book it for week days rather than over a weekend. Staff are often different at the weekend and there is often fewer activities to try out.
If a respite stay isn’t possible ask if you can stay for a meal when you view the home (relatives can usually request a meal for a small charge). This will obviously let you see the quality of the food served in the home but also it will give you the chance to meet the hands on staff (rather than the management and senior staff). You will be able to see how they interact with people which is hugely important as these are the people that will be spending the most time with your relative.
tip 3 – ask around
Especially if you are new to an area. Once you start talking to people about homes you may be surprised about the knowledge friends/ colleagues/ locals/ people in the pub have. In a local area many people know someone that does work, has worked or has visited the home. This information is often anecdotal but a home that has a high staff turn over is a home to be concerned about. Firstly it means less continuity in care but it so results in lower staff moral, probability of high staff sickness/absence or it could be a clue to an unstable management structure.
tip 4 – simple research
Every care home is monitored and inspected by a regulatory body (at this time it is called the CQC – Care Quality Commission). This body completes regular inspections and these are accessible to the public through their website. These are very informative but do take into account the date of the last inspection. The inspections are regular but it could be a couple of years since the last inspection and the home may have made the changes recommended or problems could have occurred since.
tip 5 – don’t be afraid to ask questions
When you have arranged a meeting to view the home go prepared with questions, try to go with the mindset that you are interviewing the home. They want your business as empty beds cost the home money. Ask anything you feel you need to understand- there is no such thing as a silly question. Each home has different merits so will not be suitable for everyone. Some have lovely gardens that are used regularly, some have garden that are seen but never used and some modern homes are built around modern terraces that can be accessed at all times. What sort of activities are regularly available- the type of activities vary depending on the talents of the activity staff (craft, baking, woodwork, art, gardening, wii games, singing, movies, music…). If your relative it unable to participate how will staff help to fill their day?
So that’s my 5 tips. I hope they are useful to you and help you to make the right choice to suit your needs.