Tips for Choosing a Care Home - Residential, Respite or Nursing

Going into a care home is a very large commitment so do see if there are alternatives that might be less disruptive for you. You can find some guidance on the NHS website.
If a care home is the right choice, you must first understand your particular care needs to help choose the right type of home for you (or for someone else if you are helping them to find suitable accommodation).
It is best to view as many homes as possible so that you can compare what each home has to offer.
It is good to view a home without an appointment and/or make an appointment with the Home Manager so you can ask any questions that you have. 
During your visits speak to residents, their family and staff to get their views.
To aid your viewing and to help you make a decision you may wish to consider some of the following points:


  • Is the home registered to provide the level of care you need?
  • Does the home have a good CQC inspection report?
  • Does the home have a good reputation?
  • How long has the home been established?
  • Does the home meet your cultural and religious needs?


  • Is the home in the right location for you?
  • Can relatives and friends easily visit?
  • Is the home accessible by public transport?
  • Is there parking?

First Impressions

  • What are your first impressions when you arrive?
  • Is the outside of the home well kept?
  • Is the home and reception welcoming and friendly?
  • Are there any unpleasant smells?
  • Is the home clean and well maintained?
  • Are the staff welcoming and friendly?


  • Does the atmosphere feel right?
  • Are you offered refreshments?
  • Are you offered the opportunity to spend some time in the home, maybe an afternoon or to visit for lunch?
  • Is everyone’s privacy and dignity being respected?
  • Are relatives and friends encouraged to visit?
  • Are visitors welcome anytime?
  • Does the home feel homely?


  • Does the home offer the type of room you want?
  • Are you able to look at available rooms?
  • Is the room clean and bright?
  • Are there en suite facilities or facilities nearby?
  • What furniture is provided?
  • Are you encouraged to bring your own possessions?
  • Can residents change rooms if they want?
  • Can you have a phone and television in your room?
  • Do the rooms have an assistance call system?
  • Are external doors kept locked?    


  • Is there a mixture of living spaces e.g. lounge, dining room, garden?
  • Does the home have suitable facilities for your needs?
  • Is there a lift to the upper floors?
  • Are there handrails around the home?
  • Is there easy access for wheelchairs?
  • Are toilets available in all parts of the home?
  • Is there access to computers and the internet?
  • Are books and papers available?
  • Does the mobile library visit?
  • Are there facilities for visitors to stay overnight?


  • Is the home flexible in its approach to meeting changing needs?
  • Are Care Plans regularly reviewed?
  • Are you allowed to make choices about your daily routine?
  • Are you and your relatives encouraged to contribute to your Care Plan?
  • Are residents registered with the local GP?
  • Do Care Plans include oral health and do residents have access to a dentist? 
  • Are residents registered with an optician?
  • Can residents get up and go to bed when they want?    


  • Do residents have a key worker?
  • What training do the staff receive?
  • What qualifications do staff have?
  • What is the staffing ratio to residents?
  • Do staff interact well with residents?
  • Do the residents appear happy?
  • Does the Home Manager give you confidence?
  • Are there members of staff who speak your language?
  • What is the turnover of staff?


Does the home have important equipment available such as:
  • hoists
  • walking aids
  • wheelchairs
  • height-adjustable beds
  • pressure-relieving mattresses
  • furniture suitable for older people?


  • Is there a current menu on display?
  • Is there a choice of menu at all meal times?
  • Can meals be taken in residents’ rooms?
  • Is food freshly prepared?
  • Are there snacks and drinks available at all times?
  • Are special diets catered for?
  • How are residents who need help with eating assisted?
  • Can residents prepare food and drinks for themselves?


  • Is there a regular activity programme?
  • Are there staff with responsibility for organising activities?
  • Are residents consulted on activities?
  • Are there outings for residents?
  • Does the home have access to a mini-bus?
  • Are special occasions recognised and celebrated?
  • How are residents’ religious needs met?
  • Can family and friends participate in activities?
  • Are there exercise opportunities?
  • How do residents find out about activities?    

Policies and Procedures

  • Ask for a copy of their contract. It may include important terms and conditions that affect your decision. Which? website has guidance on checking care home contracts.
  • Is there an admission pack for new residents?
  • What quality audits are carried out on the home?
  • Is it clear exactly what is included in the home’s fees and what are extras?
  • How are fees collected?
  • Do self-funding and local authority assisted residents pay the same rate?
  • Is there a complaints and compliments policy?
  • Are there any restrictions on visiting times or numbers of visitors?
  • How do you encourage feedback?
  • Is there a residents committee?
  • Do you have access to advocacy services?
  • How does the home inform relatives and friends if residents are unwell?
  • What are the notice conditions in the contract? What exit/vacation charges are there if a resident dies?

You might also want to consider some more general tips for choosing a provider.