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Care Guides > How to Get an Elderly Person into a Care Home

How to Get an Elderly Person into a Care Home

Estimated Reading Time: 9 minutes

Your loved one going into a care home can be a difficult time for everyone involved. This move may be needed if they now require a greater level of personal care than what you or others can offer.

The question then, is how do you go about finding the perfect home for your loved one’s requirements?

Here, we’ve provided advice across every stage of the care-finding journey; from having the first discussion to choosing the best care home.

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Discussing Moving Into a Care Home With Your Loved One

First of all, you can’t force anyone to go into care. The only circumstance in which someone can be put in care without prior consultation is if their mental capacity doesn’t allow them to make informed decisions. This means that to get an elderly person into a care home, they’ll have to agree with the decision - or at least understand the reasoning behind it.

The most important thing is to always involve the person moving into a care home in conversations. There is nothing more upsetting and frustrating for an elderly person than feeling that people are talking behind their back, that their opinions don’t matter, or that decisions are being made for them instead of with them. Involving your loved one from the start will ensure that they don’t feel left in the dark and are more likely to cooperate.

How to approach the subject

When the time has come to have the conversation communication is key. Find a quiet, private place to talk and make sure both you and your loved one are calm and relaxed. You may find it useful for fellow family members to be present – but take care to avoid large groups, else your relative may feel as though they are being ganged up on or bullied.

Start by focusing on the positives, highlighting the things your loved one is still able to manage on their own. You can then point out things that they are not so good at handling and gently stress that these things are only likely to become more difficult for them as time goes on. 

Make sure to mention your own worries and concerns for them – if you focus the whole discussion around their perceived shortcomings, they may feel attacked. 

Lastly, give your loved one plenty of opportunities to speak. The choice to go into care should also be theirs and the discussion may bring up complex emotions or feelings of distress for them. If your relative becomes really upset and refuses to talk, or even walks out, give them some time and try again on a different occasion.

Language to use

Try to be as positive as possible about the move and avoid using negative language. Be sure to speak about the positives of the care home and the benefits of living there – for example, it could have fantastic landscaped gardens, perfect for nurturing your loved one’s passion for gardening, or there could be regular Zumba classes on offer if your relative loves to dance. 

Give your relative as much choice as possible when it comes to choosing the care home – this will give them a feeling of control and will help to promote independence.

Seeing it From Their Point of View

If your loved one is resisting going into a care home, a useful exercise can be to put yourself in their shoes. Consider the reasons why they may not want to go into care and come up with a solution for each one. Could it be that they’ll miss their friends and family? 

Choose a care home that allows visitors at all times or a care home within easy distance of your family home. Will they miss their little Yorkshire Terrier? Check with the care home whether pets are allowed to stay with residents. Are they fretting about losing their carefully tended garden and homegrown carrots? Find out whether the care home offers gardening and vegetable growing as an activity.

You may find it helpful to browse local care homes in your area together. For instance:

By empathising with your loved one and trying to understand their feelings and fears, this will help you to make the best decision for them when it comes to their care.

Reasons Why They Might Be Resistant

Co-operation from your loved one is not guaranteed, and elderly people can resist care for lots of understandable reasons. The major reason is their perceived loss of independence. 

It’s true that change can be scary – especially if they have lived in their own home and familiar surroundings for a long time. They likely have a carefully crafted daily routine, they can see thier friends and family regularly and visit their local shops or pubs whenever they like. The thought of all that disappearing along with fundamental changes and new surroundings can cause real panic.

Elderly people also resist going into care homes because they take the suggestion as a criticism that they can no longer look after themselves properly. Many elderly people can be proud and stubborn, living under the illusion that they are perfectly capable of living independently with no outside interference.

It can be really hard to explain why going into care is a good idea, particularly to those living with dementia or other conditions that affect their memory. Lots of people simply refuse to accept that they require additional care and support.

Finding the Right Care Home

To ensure that your elderly relative’s transition into care goes as smoothly as possible, finding them the perfect care home is vital. 

There are different types of care homes you should be aware of, including privately-owned, public – which are run by the local authority – and voluntary care homes, but the main thing you’ll want to look at is whether the home is able to provide the unique elderly care package your relative needs. 

Your elderly loved one's personal care needs are unique to them, and it's important to find the right type of care home. For instance, does your elderly relative require round-the-clock support? If so, a nursing care home may be the right option. If they live with dementia and they are unable to look after themselves, a specialist dementia home will provide them with 24-hour care.

There are also residential care homes - these will provide some support in a home-from-home environment, including meals, activities and washing.

Remember to involve your family member every step of the way and ask for their opinions and preferences on the home’s facilities. For example, if you have a gregarious grandma, a peaceful care home with separate rooms and private facilities isn’t going to be much good. Likewise, if your parent is a bit of a film buff and dislikes reading, they’d probably rather have a luxurious cinema room over a cosy library.

Either way, the staff at your chosen care home will be with you every step of the way, and will support you to create a personalised care plan that meets all your loved one's care needs.

Before you select a care home, why not make a few visits and check out the feel of the home, as well as talk to staff and management. Take your relative with you when you visit and give them a chance to ask any questions they might have about life at the home. The key things to look at are:

  • The staff - Are staff welcoming and friendly? Do they seem interested in getting to know your relative and their likes and dislikes? Is the manager available for a chat and a tour of the building?

  • The facilities - Are floors and surfaces clean and hygienic? Is furniture, carpeting and paint in good condition? Is there a wide range of food options in the dining room?

  • The residents - Do residents seem happy, comfortable and looked after? Are residents socialising and having fun? 

  • The activities - Is there an activities calendar you can look at? Does it have things your relative would enjoy? Do they encourage residents to take part?

If you aren't sure how to pick a care home then check out our guide on choosing a care home.

Planning the Move

Once the decision to move has been made, you will need to plan the move itself. Be aware of your relative’s feelings around what can be a stressful time for both of you. They may feel anxious, upset or scared at the prospect of going into a care home, so make time to listen to their concerns and assuage any doubts they might have. 

You should also plan what they will be taking with them and what they will leave behind – if they are keen on keeping favourite items of furniture or personal items, ask the care home whether residents are allowed to bring these with them to decorate their rooms. 

It’s also a good idea to ensure that your loved one is familiar with the care home before they actually move in. Lots of care homes offer the chance to have a meal at the home or a walk around the building and grounds to get a feel for it – and some homes even suggest a short ‘respite’ stay at the home as a sort of trial period.

Moving Day: What to Consider

The time has come: it’s moving day! Try to make the experience as stress-free as possible by making a schedule to stick to – this will ensure there are no surprises and everyone knows what they need to do. 

Of course, it’s possible that your relative may have forgotten the arrangement. In the event that this happens, stay calm and gently remind them about the home and why they are going. Avoid situations or language which could cause conflict or distress.

When you get to the home, help your relative to personalise their room and put up their favourite photos to make it more homely. Take them for a look around and ask care home staff if there are any activities that they can join in with. 

It’s sometimes difficult to know when to leave your relative at the home and it can be an emotional moment. For this reason, lots of care homes suggest leaving while your relative is busy doing an activity or eating a meal.

After you’ve left, it’s completely normal to feel sad, or even guilty. Talk to family or friends about your feelings and try to see the positive side – you’ve done the right thing for your loved one’s needs. Care homes suggest leaving the first week visit free to give your relative enough time to settle in, but you can always phone up for a chat with the staff to see how they’re getting on.

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.

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