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Care Guides > How to Choose a Care Home

How to Choose a Care Home

How to choose a care home

Estimated Reading Time: 13 minutes

Choosing a care home is one of the most important decisions you’ll make, whether this is for yourself or a family member. If you're a carer for a family member, finding the right home can make a huge difference to the emotional wellbeing of you and your loved one.

With so many care options available, how do you find the right care home near you? There are plenty of things to consider, including the type of care needed, location, budget, facilities, food and more.

With this in mind, we’ve put together a handy guide packed full of information and advice on how to choose a care home.

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In this article:

  1. What type of care do you need?
  2. What is your care home budget?
  3. Location
  4. Facilities
  5. What else to look for
  6. Contacting and visiting care homes
  7. Making the decision and choosing your new care home
  8. Let us help you choose the perfect care home

What Type Of Care Do You Need?

There are several types of care homes, each providing slightly different care and support to their residents. These include residential care homes, nursing care homes and dementia care homes, along with respite care homes for short-term stays.

The home you choose must be able to provide the level of care and support that you or your loved one needs right now, along with if their needs were to increase in the future.

What type of care do you require?

If you aren’t sure what type of care your loved one needs, you can speak to one of our knowledgeable and friendly care experts. They’ll be able to help you understand the type of care home that’s best suited to your loved one.

Care needs can also be determined through a care needs assessment, which can be booked through GOV.UK. This is a free, professional test provided by your local council that helps you work out what type of care you or your loved one needs.

The type of care you or your loved one requires will be set out in a care plan.

To help understand the support needed, here are a few questions to ask yourself or your loved one:

  • Do you need help with day-to-day tasks like washing and dressing? If you only need personal care and don’t have extra medical needs or a cognitive condition such as dementia, a residential care home will probably be the right choice
  • Do you have a specific medical condition or health concern that may require nursing care?
  • Are you living with a form of dementia and therefore need a home with specialist dementia facilities?

What Is Your Care Home Budget?

Everyone’s budget for care is different, so it’s important to know what’s covered - and what isn’t - for care home fees.

The cost of living in a care home includes rent, food, laundry and utility bills. There may also be additional care home costs, such as visits from medical professionals, hairdressers or chiropodists. Care costs vary greatly, depending on the level of support you or your loved one needs.

Here’s the average cost of privately funded care homes in the UK, according to our internal data:

Residential care costs per week Nursing care costs per week Residential dementia care costs per week Nursing dementia care costs per week Residential respite care costs per week
Per week £1,232 £1,470 £1,294 £1,534 £1,317
Per month £5,339 £6,370 £5,607 £6,647 £5,707
Per year £64,064 £76,440 £67,288 £79,768 £68,484

There’s also funding available. Before entering a care home, a financial assessment will determine whether you’re entitled to help with paying for care from your local authority, depending on the value of your savings, income and assets.

Funding support through the NHS is also available, including NHS continuing healthcare and NHS-funded nursing care.

Family members and friends can also help pay towards the cost of care if they want to through a top-up fee.

Most homes provide a complete fee breakdown before you agree to move in. This will prevent any unwelcome surprises at a later date. If you’re entitled to financial support from your local council, they may arrange a suitable residential or nursing home on your behalf that meets your care needs and matches your budget.


We’re here to help you find the right care home for you or your loved one. You can request a free list of care homes from our care experts, who will then share homes matching your budget, location and type of care needed. You can also search for a care home through our easy-to-use directory.


Care Home Location

The next thing to consider is your preferred location.

Choosing a care home in your local area will make it easier for family and friends to visit. You may also want the home to be near amenities such as shops, cafés and local towns or villages.

For people who don’t currently live near their family or friends, entering a care home provides an opportunity to move closer, so your family members and friends can more easily visit and offer additional support.

Once you’ve decided on a location, you can then begin looking for care homes that provide the type of support you’re after in that area. You can use our free service to filter by care homes in your area.

We list care homes throughout the UK, including in the following regions and countries:


Care Home Facilities

Facilities and accommodation differ from home to home. Some homes offer private rooms with en-suite facilities and lounge areas for those who like their own space, while other homes take a more communal approach, with several bedrooms sharing a communal space and a bathroom.

Some residents may even have their own balcony or a room that leads onto a private patio or garden.

Care homes often allow residents to personalise their rooms with furniture and cherished possessions. Some homes even let residents bring their own beds, TVs and other decorations to make their room feel more homely.

Communal areas are the life and soul of a care home - bustling spaces where residents can meet to socialise over a cup of tea, catch up on their favourite TV programme, play games and join in with activities.

A communal garden is an added bonus. This can be vital for getting some fresh air and enjoying the sun on a warm summer’s day!

The care homes we’re partnered with boast amazing facilities to be used by all residents, such as:

  • Activity rooms
  • Cafés or bistro-style restaurants
  • Communal or private dining areas
  • Hair and beauty salons
  • Outdoor terracing
  • Garden spaces
  • Libraries
  • Quiet areas
  • Computer rooms

Some of the care homes we list have sensory gardens as well, which aim to stimulate the senses of people living with dementia, evoking happy memories in the process.

To make your search easier, we also list pet-friendly care homes and care homes with beautiful gardens.

You can filter by your preferred facilities and care home size as well, using our care home search tool.


What Else To Look For

Activities and experiences

Our favourite care homes include a range of fun activities for residents to take part in. These vary from home to home, but could include things like arts & crafts, book clubs, garden games, gentle exercise, visits from local schoolchildren and more.

There’s no shortage of opportunities to have fun, socialise and create meaningful relationships with other like-minded residents. Most of the homes we’re partnered with offer many of these activities.

For example, Alston House Care Home in Hampshire offers numerous activities, such as wellbeing classes, gardening and flower arranging, special holiday celebrations and movie screenings in their cinema room.

Similarly, The Chase Care Home in Cambridgeshire offers meditation and yoga classes, hair and beauty treatments, fitness classes, reading and poetry, painting and cooking.

If you have a hobby you don’t want to give up, ask staff whether there’s a class or opportunity available. Better yet, if there’s an activity you’ve always wanted to try, care homes can be extremely accommodating. Some have even helped residents achieve lifelong dreams like skydiving!

Food

Fantastic food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and care home food should be no exception!

Care homes provide residents with three delicious meals daily and additional snacks and drinks throughout the day. Food should be freshly prepared with a regularly changing menu. The food your loved one eats in a care home should be nutritious and play a big part in keeping them healthy.

A care home should be accommodating of any specific dietary requirements. There should always be options to suit every taste preference and any allergies or cultural requirements as well.

When visiting a care home, you or your loved one might be given the option to sit down for dinner and sample some of the food that’s been prepared for that day.

Good care homes now serve delicious food

Accessibility

Accessibility is another key factor when it comes to selecting a care home. Most homes accommodate people with limited movement or disabilities, such as through lifts, ramps and widened doorways for wheelchair users.

You should also check if there’s enough parking available at the home and whether facilities like shops are within a short distance. If they aren’t, will care home staff be willing to drive to them?

Management and staff

Management and staff are an essential ingredient in a good care home. A care home’s staff should all be qualified and properly trained for the type of care offered at the home, as well as being friendly, caring and helpful to residents.

Don’t be afraid to ask the care home manager and staff questions when you visit a care home. They’ll be able to answer any queries you might have about the home and how it’s run on a day-to-day basis.

Staff should show interest in the residents and take the time to get to know them, including learning about their lives and any personal preferences regarding care. All of this will contribute to keeping you or your loved one happy in daily home life while also ensuring a high level of care is received.

Management and staff are one of the most important aspects of a care home


Contacting and Visiting Care Homes

Before making any in-person visits, you can call any potential care homes and get more information over the phone.

If possible, speak directly with the care home’s manager about how the home can meet your loved one’s current needs and any future needs.

You can also ask them about fees. A home’s cost may be outside your budget, so knowing the costs will help you avoid wasted visits. You can ask the home to send you a written cost breakdown, along with a brochure if they have one. The more information you have, the better!

You’ll likely be asked how you’ll pay for care; whether this is self-funding, local authority funding or a mixture of the two. If you aren’t sure, you can explain your current situation to give more context.

Finally, you should also ask about the availability of places. There might be a lengthy waiting list, in which case, you may want to look elsewhere.

Residential care homes

You should then visit as many of these suitable care homes as possible, collecting as much information as you can. When on visits, be sure to find out what social activities are on offer and ask any questions you may have. Questions could be about the care home contract, the potential room and what else takes place around the home.

If there’s a home you’re particularly interested in, try and visit it a few times to get a better understanding of what goes on throughout the week.

While at the home, look around for clues as to the quality of life there:

  • Do the residents seem happy and well looked after?
  • Are they socialising and laughing with each other and the staff?
  • Are the facilities clean and well-kept?
  • Would the environment suit your or your loved one’s lifestyle?

You can book a viewing by calling or emailing the home in advance. If you can’t visit in person, a staff member may be able to come to you (virtual viewings are often an option as well).

Never underestimate the power of your gut feeling – if you or your loved one immediately feels happy and at home, that’s definitely a good sign.


Making the Decision & Choosing Your New Care Home

You should make a shortlist of suitable care homes by assessing all the factors discussed in this article (such as location, cost, accommodation and facilities, activities, accessibility and food).

When making this shortlist, you may wish to include other close family members or friends in the discussion - multiple heads are often better than one!

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates, inspects and reviews care homes in England. You can either directly ask for a home’s most recent inspection report, or you can find it through the CQC inspection page.

Similarly, the Care Inspectorate regulates care homes in Scotland, Care Inspectorate Wales regulates care homes in Wales, and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority regulates care homes in Northern Ireland.

Discussing the decision with your loved one

If you’re helping your loved one choose a care home, it’s essential to get their opinions and preferences regarding the list of suitable homes for them to move into.

The care home chosen for your loved one will ultimately depend on availability, which nearby care homes tick all the necessary boxes, personal preference and their gut feeling.


Let Us Help You Choose The Perfect Care Home

Our helpful care search tool makes finding the perfect care home for yourself or a loved one easy. Our care experts have vetted every home listed on our website based on the quality of care provided, the overall home culture and more - so you can feel confident that your loved one will receive an amazing service.

The care homes we list offer a range of care types, including residential, nursing, dementia and short-term respite care. Specialist care services like convalescent care, palliative care and physiotherapy are also available. These homes are packed with state-of-the-art facilities and offer a range of fun activities throughout the week.

You can also get in touch with us and speak directly with our outstanding care experts. We provide a free care concierge service and will guide you through choosing the best care home in your local area.

Finally, you can request a free list of suitable homes. All you have to do is fill in the simple form and we’ll send you care homes in your area matching your needs and requirements.


Lottie matches care seekers with the best care homes for their needs. You can request a free care home shortlist from our care experts, who will share homes matching your budget, location and type of care needed. You can also search for a care home through our easy-to-use directory.

Frequently Asked Questions

What questions should I ask when choosing a care home?

There are numerous questions you could ask when visiting a care home. Some of the most important include:

  • Can the care home currently accommodate your needs, and can they continue to do so if they increase in the future?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • What activities, services and facilities are available to residents?
  • Do the bedrooms have en-suite facilities?
  • Do other health professionals such as nurses, dentists and opticians regularly visit the home?
  • Are services such as cleaning and laundry included in the price?
How do I choose a dementia care home in the UK?

When choosing a dementia care home for your loved one, it’s most important to find out how they care for and support people with dementia.

You should ask how many carers are trained in specialist dementia techniques and to what level. If possible, speaking to other families with loved ones in the care home is an invaluable way of gathering first-hand experiences.

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