Choosing a Nursing Home in the UK

Making the decision to put a loved one into a nursing home can be painful and difficult. It is natural to want to be there for your parent or other relative, but sometimes they might require a level of care that you cannot provide. And moving into one nursing home or sheltered housing scheme is a fairly major upheaval, never mind having to move again, if your relative is not comfortable.

Find out what options are available

There’s a variety of long term care options available for older people that needn’t necessarily mean full nursing care. Depending on your relative’s needs, he or she may be more comfortable in sheltered housing, or a care home, rather than a nursing home.

Your relative might not be able to live in his or her own home any longer, but that does not mean that he or she cannot live independently. There are other options available besides nursing homes which may be a better fit.

Sheltered housing – usually self-contained flats or bungalows within a larger complex. There are staff on hand to offer help if needed, or in an emergency, but they do not provide full, day-to-day care. This option is good because it helps people to retain their independence, with the advantages of having staff on hand, but accommodation can be quite small, and meals are not provided.

Extra care housing – similar to sheltered housing but with additional support and 24 hour care. Care plans are matched to individual residents’ needs and residents can retain some independence whilst also being part of a community. However, this is a fairly new concept and is not yet widely available.

Care homes – for those who can manage most things for themselves and get about fairly easily. These offer 24 hour care, but residents don’t retain the same levels of independence as with sheltered housing. Each person has his or her own room, and there is a real community, with activities and outings arranged.

Nursing homes – for more infirm elderly people who require a high level of medical care. Nursing homes offer 24 hour care from trained nurses, and a safe, comfortable environment. Outings and activities are arranged in which residents are encouraged to participate. However, nursing homes are expensive.

Make a list

If you think about it, you and your relative are bound to have a list of criteria that are important to you when deciding upon a nursing home. For example, is the home near transport links? What are visiting hours like? Are there social activities? Do residents have their own rooms? Etc, etc.

Draw up a list of the criteria that matter most to you, and use this to inform your decisions when you start actually looking round homes. But remember, you should always make your decisions with your relative’s preferences in mind.

Do your research

Probably the most important piece of advice here. The care industry (especially in the UK) has had a bad rep of late, so you need to make sure that you’re choosing a nursing home that’s comfortable.

The Internet can really help here. Have a look at the CareQuality Commission’s (CQC) website for advice, for instance. There are also other sites, such as, that can help.

Read any brochures you get thoroughly. Look at fees, fee increases and how often they occur, how you can pay, mealtimes, meals served, visiting hours etc.

Ask advice

Something that social sharing sites have cottoned onto is the fact that people like things that are recommended by their friends. The same applies here. By asking around your friends and neighbours, and other people whose opinions you trust, you may find that they will be able to recommend nursing homes to you.

Or why not try asking your relative’s GP if he or she provides care at any nursing homes. Your relative may wish to continue seeing his or her own GP, and if the GP provides nursing home care, that may inform your relative’s decision.

Involve everyone

Make sure that everyone involved is, well, involved. Above all make sure that the person who is going to be moving into the home is involved in the decision making – what is most convenient for you might not be the best fit for him or her. Likewise, if you have siblings, partners and children who are likely to want to visit their parent/grandparent, make sure that they are made aware of visiting hours and transport links.

Once the decision has been made, let the home know, and they will most likely send you an application form and carry out a pre-admission assessment.

Author bio

Cairn Technology are a firm of environmental consultants with a focus on infection prevention and control in care homes. They provide infection control products and training to care homes and hospitals across the UK