Selecting a care home for your loved one is a big decision. Naturally, you want to make sure that they’ll be safe, comfortable and happy. Here are our top tips to take you through the process.

First impressions

Were you greeted warmly? How does the place strike you a first glance? These are the small but important things that culminate in that important first impression. Don’t ignore your gut instinct. If you get a ‘sinking feeling’ so will your loved one.


Try to notice how the residents are behaving. Even if it’s inappropriate to sit down and have a proper chat with them, you’ll be able to ascertain quite a bit from their general demeanour. Looking happy and responsive is the ideal. If they are just sitting around and looking bored you might start to add up that they aren’t being given sufficient activities to pass the time and keep them physically and mentally active.

You should also look at how they are dressed and groomed since this indicates both how they are being treated and often what their state of mind is.


Watch how residents interact with staff. Try to observe how the residents speak with staff and indeed how they are spoken with. Are they encouraged to do things for themselves and to be as independent as they can be?

So much of how a care home is run is down to the staff. If they look unhappy, the likelihood is that they will make those around them unhappy. Try to find out about the level of their training and any areas of specialism such as training in dementia care for example (where needed).


It isn’t just what the care home is like that’s important, it’s where it is. You’ll want to know how easy it is to drop in for a visit and this might include details not only about how far away from you it is but also if there are any prohibitive rules on the timing of your visits or even if you need to make an appointment.

Depending on the nature of care, it might also be good to have a few amenities within walking distance, such as shops or a cafe for those residents who are able to get out and about a little bit.

Access and facilities

The care home you select needs to be a practical choice and be an environment able to support a calm and quiet lifestyle. Entrances and exits need to be of an appropriate width and should be equipped with ramps where needed and it’s also important to make sure that corridors and other spaces are suitable for anyone that uses mobility equipment.

It’s also important to consider whether bathing and toilet facilities are suitable. Discuss any necessary adaptations with the care home manager (including those such as hearing induction loops and the like).

It’s also worth finding out if staff have been properly trained to assist people with intellectual disabilities and conditions such as dementia which can provide just as many potential complications and concerns as physical disabilities.


Privacy and dignity should be the leading principles when discussing living in a care home. Having a room that a person can really call ‘their own’ will go a long way to achieving this and helping the new resident to consider the care home as less of an institution and more as the place ‘where they live’. 

Find out if residents are able to bring any possessions with them including a few items of furniture to make it feel more homely. This will help with the adjustment to living in a new place and enable the person moving in to feel as if they’ve retained at least some control over events.

Watch for how staff respect peoples’ privacy. Observe if they knock and wait at the door before entering, for example – and also if rooms are kept clean, tidy and appropriately heated/ventilated.

Toilets and bathing

It is likely that at least some of the facilities will be shared. Make sure that the toilet is within easy reach and that there are enough facilities to service the amount of people in the home without too much waiting around. Naturally, they should be accessible so you may need to discuss any specific adaptations that are required.

Safety, privacy and dignity are all important. You need to know if the bathing facilities are appropriate in terms of access and usage but also what measures are on hand if somebody takes a fall and so on. (Much of this conversation will depend on the level of care agreed.)


Meals are an important part of everyday routine and of course physical wellbeing but they are also another clue as to how people are treated. Try to see at least part of a meal service since how it is organised will say a lot about the style of care in place.

Of course, a choice of meals should be on offer to make sure that anyone with likes and dislikes and any specific dietary requirements is catered for. Missing meals apart from in instances of ill health is unacceptable.


In the everyday, you should make sure that staff are able to assist residents in taking the correct doses of any medications they are on and have access to other forms of medical care such as those from dentists and chiropodists etc.

You need to know that in the event of an illness or exacerbation of existing symptoms that there are robust procedures in place to get the correct medical assistance be it from a GP or hospital intervention. Of course, they will likely need to consult with you at times to get further information about the new resident or to agree a course of medical action.


It’s a good idea to find out if visitors are allowed to drop by when they like since the shortest unexpected visit can mean a lot to somebody in residential care. Find out if you’ll be able to go out or even join somebody for a meal since this makes a visit more fun and a bit more relaxed and ‘natural’. Becoming a resident in a care home should not mean social isolation.

Security and safety

Measures for security and safety should underpin else. You need to know what measures are in place to keep track of where residents are as well as how they reduce the risk of falls and the like as well as what might happen if something goes wrong or if there’s an emergency evacuation, for example.


If there’s one person you need to meet on your first visit to a care home it’s the care home manager. How they act will be a huge indicator to how the residents are looked after. You need to feel confident in the manager since you’ll realise that how they operate will have a direct influence over the rest of the staff.

The care home manager should understand and be able to answer any questions regarding your concerns. They should also have a part to play in assessing a person before they move into the care home as well as their care plan (and any future changes made to it).


You or the person you care for may be eligible for funding for either care home fees or care in their own home. Support organisations can provide you with specific information relating to your needs.

Citizens Advice Bureau



The contract will outline the nature of the care and what arrangements are made for such time as the resident’s condition deteriorates and so on. In short, you need to know what you’re paying for.

Get advice from a solicitor or Citizen’s Advice Bureau before you sign any agreement.