Help choosing a residential care home

Placing someone into a care home can be an emotional time and, understandably, you'll often worry about finding a suitable care home for yourself or a loved one.

Following this 4 step process should help you become more informed about how to choose a care home.

Step 1 - consider the area

For many people, the area where their care home is located is very important.

Here are some things you might want to consider:

  • Who the GP is - many people are reluctant to change their GP, especially if they've been with them for many years. If a care home is outside of the GP's catchment area, they'll have to register with another GP. However, the care home will be able to do this for you, if needed.
  • Access to health care - if the person living in the care home has to go to a particular hospital or see a certain specialist often, it's a good idea to think about if they'll be able to attend these appointments easily from where the care home is located.
  • Friends and family being able to visit regularly and easily - if family members can't visit often due to the location of the care home, it may cause the person in the care home to feel isolated and lonely.
  • What they're able to do in their spare time - a person living in a care home is able to come and go as often as they please to visit friends, go shopping or attend social activities, as long as their health allows. Picking a location where they're able to do the things they like nearby may be important.

Step 2 - research

The next step is to find out about the care homes in your preferred areas.

  • If possible, speak to the person who'll be living in the care home. - make a list of what they consider essential as well as what they consider desirable for their care home. This should help you rule out some of the care homes from your research.
  • Search for care homes in your preferred area on the NHS website - you can use the NHS website to get a list of care homes in your preferred area. The list also includes a link to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) profile. The profile contains a summary of the quality and safety of the care home from their previous CQC inspections; the CQC is the independent regulator of health and social care in England. Non-nursing care homes on the NHS website | Nursing care homes on the NHS website.
  • See if the care homes in your preferred area have a website - you might be able to get answers to some of your questions from the information the care home lists on their website.
  • Ask friends and family for their experiences - does anyone you know have a relative or friend who is already in a care home or has recently lived in one?
  • Read about choosing a care home for dementia patients - a booklet by The Alzheimer's Society for carers or family members who are looking for a care home on behalf of a person experiencing dementia.
  • You might want to create a shortlist of your preferred care homes - any care homes from your research which you think might be suitable can be added to your shortlist.

Step 3 - visit the care homes

Visiting the care homes you liked from your research should help you make a decision.

  • Download our care home visit checklist - we've created this checklist to help you when you visit a care home. It lists things to look out for, questions you might like to ask and room to write down their answers so you can compare them later on if needed.
  • Read choosing the right care home for you - a guide created by Age UK which lists their advice for visiting a care home.
  • You can visit a care home more than once before making a decision - don't be nervous asking to visit multiple times. It's important you feel comfortable with the care home you choose.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions when you visit - the more information you have, the more confident you should feel about making the best choice.

Step 4 - apply for a place

​Once you've decided on a suitable care home, you may wish to consider applying for a place.

  1. You'll need to use the contact details on this page to get in touch with Adult Social Care to request a Care Act assessment to determine eligibility for care and support.
  2. You'll be allocated a health or social care practitioner who will contact you to arrange a convenient time to carry out the assessment. They'll also make arrangements with the care home about a suitable admission date.
  3. Once you've been admitted, we'll work with you to complete a financial assessment to determine how much you may need to contribute towards your care.

More help with choosing a residential care home

There are a number of organisations that can help you choose a care home.

  • Age UK – the largest charity dedicated to supporting older people.
  • Alzheimer's Society – a charity specialising in support for people with dementia and Alzheimer's.
  • Care Quality Commission – an organisation responsible for rating care homes and helping people to choose the right care home for their needs.
  • Independent Age – a charity offering advice and support for older age.

Videos about choosing a residential care home

In this video, Jane Timson and Andrea Dutton share their experiences and advice in choosing care homes for family members.

In the next video, 2 people chat about the key standards people should look for when choosing a care home for a loved one.