We realise that the decision to choose a care home can often be one of the most difficult decisions that a family can make together. This guide is to give you a few useful suggestions about what to look out for when visiting care homes to help you decide which care home is the right one for you.

Below are some answers to some of the more frequently asked questions, however, every person is different and it is advisable to seek independent financial and legal advice to ensure you have all the necessary information and guidance.

Key Considerations:

  • Does the home provide the level of care you need, or that you might require in the future?
  • Take a look at the most recent report on the care home from the CQC (Care Quality Commission), which is the governing body in England that regulates and inspects care homes.
  • Does the care home have any current vacancies? If it does not, ask how long the waiting list is so that you are able to decide if you can wait, or if you need to consider somewhere else that you can move into sooner.
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Does the home give you a full healthcare assessment before it accepts residency?

Do the current residents seem to have a similar level of care requirements to you?

Is the home a specialist in Dementia?

Does the home have a partnership with a GP practice for residents?

Does the GP practice respond with a visit once called out?

Do other healthcare services visit the home regularly (opticians, dentists, chiropodists etc)?

Are residents helped to the toilet if necessary when they need to go?

Is there a policy on when incontinence pads and catheters are used?

How often is a healthcare assessment done once you’re a resident?

Are there organised travel arrangements for regular hospital and clinic visits and do staff accompany residents?

Is there a process in place in case your needs change or increase?

Does the home support those with sensory impairments or dementia?

Does the home let friends and family know if a resident is taken ill?

Does the home provide end-of-life care?

Are security arrangements in place to ensure residents are kept safe?

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Were the staff friendly?

Did the staff appear to treat the residents with respect and kindness?

Were the staff engaging with residents at all times?

Did the staff appear professional and courteous when passing them in corridors?

Were the staff that showed you around helpful?

Are there members of staff who speak your preferred language?

Is there a manager in position and a senior member of staff on duty at all times?

Are the staff trained regularly?

Does the home ensure staff get to know about a resident’s life and experiences?

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Do the buildings and grounds appear to be well-maintained?

Is there a garden or courtyard and is it well-kept?

Does the home and garden area feel welcoming and homely?

Is the home clean?

Does the home smell fresh?

Are the rooms at a pleasant temperature?

Are the bedrooms attractive and well-decorated?

Does the home use signs / pictures to show where things are and distinguish between individuals’ rooms?

Does every bedroom have a private en-suite bathroom?

Are accessible toilets available in all parts of the home?

Do toilets have handrails, raised toilet seats and other mobility aids?

Are there modern movement-triggered lights in the bathroom?

Are there touch-sensitive bedside lamps?

Is there a ‘hub’ area (perhaps in reception) where relatives and residents can sit comfortably and have a cup of tea and cake?

Is there a cinema area?

Is there a hair / nail salon on site?

How often do the beauticians attend the home?

Is there sufficient parking at the home?

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Does the menu change often?

Hot and cold options every day?

Do residents usually eat in the communal areas?

Is the food locally sourced?

Is food prepared on the premises?

Are resident’s preferences or special diets catered for?

Can residents eat when they feel like it? (later/earlier than scheduled?)

Are visitors able to visit during meal times and can they have meals?

Can residents and visitors make themselves a drink?

Is there a sample menu you can have a look at?

Are you allowed to keep food in your room?

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Are there daily activities?

Are the types of activities continually varied?

Do they invite outside entertainers?

Do they have a designated Activity Coodinator?

Are residents encouraged to stay active and do as much as they can for themselves?

Is there at least one lounge or social areas per floor?

Would you feel comfortable socialising in the home’s common areas?

Are there plenty of residents you feel you could socialise with?

If you have pets, can you take them with you?

Does the home have its own pets?

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A radio

A quiet lounge or reading room

A piano

A TV room


Books or a mobile library

Private phone facilities

Shared phone facilities

Mobile phone reception

Shared computers

Internet reception in the bedrooms

Hairdressing services

An outdoor seating area

Music or singing activities

Reminiscence groups

Physical activities such as aerobic movement classes

Gardening activities

Celebrations for special occasions

Outings to shops, entertainment venues, places of worship or places of interest

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Are there any restrictions on visiting times or numbers of visitors?

Can visitors stay overnight?

Are young children welcome?

Where can residents spend time with visitors?

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Can residents choose their daily routine, such as when they get up, go to bed, have meals or go out?

Can residents choose which clothes to wear?

Can residents bring their own furniture and belongings and is there enough space in the bedroom to put them?

Would it be possible to change rooms at a later date?

Are there safes or locked drawers in the bedrooms?

Can residents choose whether they have a bath or shower and how often?

What is the usual ratio of female to male patients?

What are the laundry arrangements?

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Can you see a copy of the home’s contract and terms and conditions?

Can you stay for a trial period?

Is it necessary to pay an advance payment or deposit?

Is it clear how the fees are structured and calculated?

Are fees reviewed frequently?

Is a top-up payment required if you’re being placed by the local authority?

Are any fees payable after a resident’s death?

This guide is also available as a download. Feel free to print it out and bring it with you if you visit one of our care homes – or indeed if you visit one of our competitors.

Useful contacts

Age UK

Advice and information for people in later life
Age UK Advice: 0800 169 65 65

Care Quality Commission 

Responsible for regulating health and social care services in England.
Tel: 03000 61 61 61

Cinnamon Trust

Specialist charity for older people and their pets. It can help to rehouse your pet if you’re unable to take it with you into a care home.

Tel: 01736 757 900

The Relatives and Residents Association 

Supports care home residents and their relatives. Operates a helpline and has a network of local groups.

Tel: 020 7359 8136