I have worked in many different care settings and cared for people with a range of different needs. I’ve done domiciliary care for older people, worked in cluster homes taking care of adults with both physical and learning disabilities, and also worked in residential care and nursing homes for older people. Some of my time was with an agency, meaning that there were many times I would just work in a particular setting for one or two shifts. This meant I got to see an assortment of settings and the vast differences between good and not-so-good.
For me, walking into a care home that smells of stale pee is an instant cause for alarm bells. While incontinence in older people is very common, most care homes have a team of cleaners to keep on top of any issues like this.
Another cause for concern is seeing staff members sat together, having a general chat. If they have they opportunity to sit and chat with anyone it should be a resident, and they should be trying to talk about the resident than themselves if possible. Many service users in care homes are unable to go out as much as they like – they don’t always want to know what exciting things you did over the weekend when the highlight of theirs was Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which they couldn’t hear properly anyway.
Thirdly (and lastly because I really ought to talk about the positives), every service user should have full and clear notes available for relatives and professionals to read at any time. Notes should be clear, thorough and concise. There’s a saying in the care industry – if it isn’t written down it didn’t happen. Applied cream to Mavis’ knee? Write it down. Bill had a funny tun? Record it.
Some of these points aren’t really things you can check before choosing the right home for a loved one though, especially the last one as all notes are protected under the Data Protection Act 1998.
So how do you begin to chose the best place for your loved one to live? It may seem like a completely monumental task at first, but there are ways to narrow down your options.
Firstly, list homes in your area that offer the right services for you. Do you need a residential or a nursing home? Do you need to find one in the area your loved one lives or, if different, somewhere closer to relatives?
Once you have your shortlist, check out the Care Quality Commission website and browse the reports avaiable for the homes on your list. The CQC is a governing body and all homes are inspected periodically, in a similar way to OFSTED for schools.
Thirdly, and most importantly, visit potential homes. Take your relative with you if possible so they can get a feel for the place they may well live in for the rest of their days. If not, talk to them beforehand and make a list of questions to ask on their behalf. Speak to staff members and service users too, if possible. Try to get a feel of the place and the atmosphere.
When you do visit, know the rights of service users and keep them in mind when looking around homes. These may help you to compile a list of questions you may have for the care home manager. There is some great guidance around this from Pryers Solicitors on the Live Life Magazine website, which is worth a read.
Lastly, I would just say you should go with your gut feeling. If you walk into a residential care home and can imagine visiting your relative there, if they offer a wide range of relevant activities and entertainment, if you can picture them chatting to others in the communal lounge… you’re onto something great.
Choosing a care home is never going to be an easy task, but there are some wonderful homes out there and I hope that reading this post might just help to point someone in the right direction.