Choosing a Care Home: A Definitive Checklist

Choosing a Care Home: A Definitive Checklist

Choosing a care home can be extremely difficult.

The home must have everything you or your relative needs, in the right location at an affordable price.

It needs to be a care home where the resident can still do the things that matter to them, where they have choice and control and where their emotional needs are valued and their rights are upheld.

The care home you choose will be determined by location, funding and the type of care you are looking for.

When deciding on a care home, it is vital to visit the home and talk to staff and residents.

You can also read reviews of the care home on, which has nearly 100,000 reviews of care homes on its site.

Questions to ask when looking around a care home

1. What is included in the fee and what is charged as ‘extras’?

Many care homes charge a monthly fee and then charge extra for trips, chiropody and hairdressing, toiletries, etc. It is a good idea to clarify what these are.

2. What happens if a resident is unhappy after moving into the home?

Make sure you read the contract and find out how much notice you would have to give if you or your relative want to move out.

3. What is the ratio of staff to residents during the day and night?

There is currently no guidance on staffing levels in care homes. It is up to the care home to decide this based on the needs of the residents. However you can find out if staff are happy by asking for the care home’s staff retention rate and by talking to them, you can discover if they are calm and have time to sit and chat to residents or if they are rushing from one resident to the next.

4. What activities are on offer at the home?

A good care home should offer a range of meaningful activities that stimulate residents, helping them to interact and stay active. Depression, anxiety, dependency and falls are all reduced in residents who continue to participate in activities.

5. Does the care home have an activity coordinator?

An increasing number of care homes have activity coordinators and this is a sign they take residents’ social and physical wellbeing seriously. Having an activity coordinator can help ensure residents have a good quality of life.

6. How often do residents go outside and what kind of trips are on offer?

Going outside and breathing in fresh air enhances wellbeing, so regular walks outside are very important as are trips which stimulate and energise residents, giving them new experiences.

7. Are residents encouraged to take part in regular exercise sessions?

Regular exercise helps with residents’ mobility and activities such as dancing and chair Zumba as well as being fun and reducing anxiety, improves muscle tone and brain function and boosts the mood and quality of life for people with dementia.

8. Can residents choose when they get up in the morning, when they have their meals and when they go to bed?

Having choice and control over one’s life is so important as it gives people dignity and gives them a sense of self-worth.

9. Do residents have a menu of different meals to choose from?

A good nutritious diet can be instrumental in protecting older people against a whole range of age-related conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, dementia, bowel problems and osteoporosis. A good meal can also bring a lot of enjoyment to a person so an interesting range of meals is hugely important

10. Can you bring a pet or can a pet visit?

For many older people, their closest companion is often their cat or dog. Leaving their pet behind is a massive wrench but a growing number of care homes do allow residents to bring their pets, which can give their owners a sense of routine and purpose, as well as unconditional love which boosts self-esteem.

11. Will the bedroom have a television, telephone points and Wi-Fi?

Many residents may struggle with their mobility, so it is important to find out what digital entertainment they can access in their bedrooms. An increasing number of people are entering care homes now who are used to smartphones and tablets. Some care homes will only offer Wi-Fi in communal areas so it is important you find out where Wi-Fi can be accessed.

12. Can you bring personal possessions with you?

Some care homes allow you to bring your own curtains and furniture which may hold many memories and will be important in making you feel at home.


If you’re seeking a care home, ensure you perform thorough research before making a decision.

In addition to asking trusted health professionals and friends for recommendations, there’s also a range of information available online.

When you’ve weighed the options, ensure that you have any questions ready before arranging a visit to choose the best care home for your situation.

Author: Sue Learner, editor of, the leading reviews site for care homes.

Help care workers change lives by becoming a supporter of The Care Workers Charity today. If you’re a caregiver, check if you qualify for support here.