Choosing a Care Home: 15 Questions to Ask Care Homes When Visiting

Choosing the right care home or nursing home for a loved one is one of the most difficult and emotional things you might ever have to do. 

That’s why it’s vital that you ask the right questions when visiting for the first time.

What to Ask During Your Care Home Visit:

1. What’s included in the fee?

One of the first things you’ll want to know when visiting a care home is how much it costs to stay there, and what’s included in the fee.

A good care home should provide transparent and structured pricing, highlighting precisely how and when the money is collected. 

You should also ask if a deposit is required and if the fees are reviewed on a yearly basis.

2. What costs extra?

Every care home provider is different. Some will include various extras in the overall price, while others will charge for additional items or services.

It’s a good idea to clear this up on your visit. Will toiletries, hairdressing, newspapers, etc. add to your overall bill each month? If so, by how much? 

3. What does my loved one get in their room?

You’ll be shown a room on your tour, but make sure you don’t take what’s in it at face value. 

Request a list of what’s included in the room as standard, and ask the following: 

  • Do you provide bedding? How often is it changed? 
  • Is there a television in the room? Or a radio?  
  • Is there a telephone in the room?
  • Is there storage space?
  • Can residents bring their own furniture from home?
  • Is there somewhere for visitors to sit?

4. Is there internet access? 

Most care homes now provide internet access as standard. However, some only offer Wi-Fi in communal areas, while others make sure it’s available across the entire facility.

If your loved one likes to Facetime family members or enjoys keeping up with friends on social media, it’s a good idea to check where and how they can do this in the care home. 

5. How are meals prepared? What about snacks? Tea or coffee?

Your loved one’s diet is tied to their well-being, so learning more about how the care home prepares meals will give you peace of mind that they’re being well looked after. 

Is there a chef on-site? Are the residents able to choose from a set menu? Are they provided with snacks throughout the day? And what about drinks, like juice, tea, or coffee?

Ask to see a menu, or speak with the kitchen staff to get a better idea of their process and the quality of food on offer.

6. What activities do you offer?

Care homes must provide daily activities for their residents. It’s a regulatory requirement. You should, therefore, seek to understand the range and quality of these activities.

Does the home have an activity coordinator? Can you meet with them? Can you observe an activity?

And, should you choose this home for your loved one, can you join in with the activities?

7. How often do residents get outside?

While most activities are likely to take place indoors, some care homes will also offer their residents the opportunity to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. 

Ask if the home provides day trips and, if so, how frequent they are. Do these trips cost extra? Are food and drink provided? And what’s the ratio of staff to residents on these trips?

8. When can I visit?

Visits from family members can be vital to the mental health and happiness of residents. 

You should, therefore, ask when you can visit and for how long. Most good care homes will allow visitors at any time of the day, within reason. 

Be wary of anywhere with fixed opening hours or that request you call ahead before visiting. 

At Fulford, we allow visitors to turn up at any time. 

9. What’s the staff-to-resident ratio?

This is a crucial question to ask, and one that’s often overlooked. 

If the staff are rushing from room to room, there’s a chance that your loved one won’t get the quality of care and attention they require. And if the staff appear stressed, they may leave before building meaningful relationships with the residents. 

To better understand the situation, ask for the care home’s staff retention rate and a copy of their most recent CQC (Care Quality Commission) report.

10. How will you manage and administer their medication? What happens if they become unwell?

If your loved one needs certain medication at specific points during the day, you’ll want reassurance that this will be taken care of. 

Ask how medicine is tracked and administered. How will changes in medication be handled? And what happens if your loved one falls ill? Is there a doctor-on-call? 

This is where choosing a nursing home (like Fulford) over a residential care home might come into your thinking. Nursing homes have trained nurses on duty to handle the nursing and medical requirements of its residents.

11. What’s your policy on pets?

Pets play a huge part in many people’s lives, and leaving them behind to move into a care home can be incredibly emotional. 

Some care homes allow residents to keep pets in their room. Some have strict no-pet policies. And others will allow visits from pets during pre-determined visiting hours or with advanced notice. Ask for clarification on this during your visit, if necessary.

12. What is the notice period?

You can do your homework on a care home, ask all the right questions, and be rigorous in your own personal inspection — but even then, that might not be enough. If your loved one is unhappy, you may want to move them to another facility, or bring them home. 

During your visit, ask if there’s a notice period for leaving and, if so, what the associated charges are. This is helpful because, if you find yourself faced with this situation, you’ll be well-prepared to deal with it both logistically and financially. 

A Few Questions to Ask Yourself

As you tour a care home, it’s useful to keep a few things front of mind:

13. What are my first impressions of the facility?

Listen to your gut as you enter the care home. Ask yourself:

  • Was I greeted in a friendly manner?
  • Is the atmosphere warm and welcoming?
  • Is the facility clean? Are there any unpleasant odours?
  • Are there enough toilets within reach?
  • Is it well-decorated and furnished?
  • Are there enough parking spaces for visitors?

14. Do the staff look happy?

If you’re looking for an insight into the level of care on offer, it’s helpful to observe the demeanour of the staff in and around the facility. 

  • Do they appear happy?
  • Do they smile at the residents?
  • Are they polite?
  • Are they engaging residents in conversation?
  • Do they listen?

It might seem like a small detail, but smiles are contagious! If the staff look happy, chances are they’re making the residents happy too.

Read More: Why Work in a Care Home? Ten Great Benefits to Consider 

15. Do the residents look happy?

Lastly, as you tour a prospective care home, take time to observe the residents. 

  • Do they appear happy, alert and responsive?
  • Are they smiling? Laughing?
  • Are they properly dressed and well-groomed?
  • Are they getting involved in activities, or chatting with one another?
  • Are they encouraged to be independent? To move around freely? And for those unable to do so, are they able to easily and quickly access a member of staff?

Gauging the mood of the room you’re in can be a small indicator of whether or not the residents are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Choosing a Care Home: We’re Here to Help

At the end of the day, the building isn’t important; it’s the people inside. 

We encourage you to visit as many nursing homes and care homes as you can and ask as many questions as possible. All that truly matters is that it feels right and that your loved one is happy and cared for. Go with your heart.

If you’d like to learn more about Fulford Nursing Home, please contact us on 01904 654 269. We’re ready to listen and happy to help.