If you are thinking about choosing a care home with or on behalf of a loved one, here’s what you need to know. On this page, you can find information about how best to choose a care home:

1. Talk through the options

2. Shortlist suitable care homes

3. Read the care home inspection reports on the Care Quality Commission Website (CQC)

4. Read the care home reviews on carehome.co.uk

5. Ask friends and family for recommendations

6. Contact suitable care homes

7. Visit the care homes

8. Ensure the care home caries our a Pre Admission Assessment


1. Talk through the options

Before you start shortlisting any care homes, sit down with your relative (and as long as s/he is able to have such conversations), and discuss what’s important to them. This might involve location, facilities or specialist care for a specific health problem. What do they consider ‘essential’, and what is considered ‘desirable’? You might want to include other close family members or friends in this conversation.

Although this page is focused on people looking for a care home for a family member or friend, we recognise that you could be looking for a care home for yourself. If this is the case, it’s just as important to think about what you want when you move to a care home. If possible, talk to family, a friend or a carer to help focus your thoughts.

2. Shortlist suitable care homes

Use a search engine such as Google or carehomes.co.uk to find suitable care homes in your chosen area. You can filter for residential homes or nursing homes as well as looking for those homes that offer more specialist support, such as for dementia care or physical disabilities.

Search engines should give you information for all registered care homes in the UK, which includes contact details and, in England, the inspection ratings and a link to the latest inspection report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Where a care home has a website, check it out. It’s always worth spending some time browsing the websites to get more of a feel for the homes as you think about which ones you are going to shortlist. However, there is nothing to beat a visit to a care home to get a full picture as to the reality of what it’s like to live in residential care.

3. Read the care home inspection reports

In the UK there are four watchdogs charged with inspecting and reporting on care providers. The reports are publicly available and give valuable insight into how well a home is managed and the level of care. In England and Scotland, the care regulators also rate the care homes.

You can also use the reports to see if:

· points raised by inspectors have been addressed or whether they reappear on subsequent reports

· high staff turnover is mentioned, which could indicate unsettled, unhappy staff

· inspections have occurred frequently, which may be a sign of problems. To find out more about the regulators and their reports, visit www.cqc.org.uk

4. Read the care home reviews

The carehome.co.uk highlight the most recommended Care Homes in each region of the UK. The Awards are based on the Review Score, from family members, or residents using a particular services. For a full breakdown of a Care Home’s Review Score please visit the ‘Reviews’ tab on its profile page.

5. Ask friends and family for recommendations

Does anyone that you know have a relative or friend who is already in a care home? A recommendation from a happy resident is worth its weight in gold.

6. Contact suitable care homes

Contact your shortlisted care homes and talk specifically from the first phone call. Discuss how the home can meet your relative’s specific needs directly with the overall manager of the home. Ask the home to be upfront about the fees too, even if they’re reluctant. This will help avoid wasted visits. They will want to know if your relative is self-funding, local authority funded, or a mixture. It could be that you don’t know this yet, in which case explain the situation. Also enquire about availability of places.

Finding out about cost and room availability, will help you eliminate any homes that aren’t suitable either because they are out of your price range or are lacking spaces.

7. Visit the care homes

It’s important to visit all the homes on your shortlist so that you can get as much information as you can.

We cover this in a separate article – to get you thinking about what’s important, ranging from practical issues, such as what social activities are on offer, through to questions about the formalities, your relative’s potential room and what else happens in and around the home.

If possible, visit the care homes with the person you are caring for, but if that’s not possible go with another family member or friend. If your relative is unable to visit, ask a representative from the home to visit them and talk things through.

8. Ensure the care home carries out a Pre Admission Assessment

Once you are happy with the home of choice, the home then should offer a Pre Admission Assessment, to ensure the home is suitable and the individual care needs of the resident can be met. Also at this stage, choice of room should be discussed and its location. Not all homes are able to offer ground floor accommodation as those types of room seem to be more popular.

Assuming the care home are able to meet the needs of the resident, and the home is suitable, you should then discuss admission dates. From the initial assessment, admission should be less than a week.