FEB 2021: Seven top tips for choosing a care home during the COVID-19 pandemic

Choosing the right care home is a real responsibility, a decision worth taking time and care over. Choosing a care home during the COVID-19 pandemic, even more so. It’s possible that a decline in a loved one’s health is putting you under unwelcome pressure to make a decision quickly. If so, our seven top tips for choosing a care home during the pandemic should help you approach the task in a calm and efficient way.

1. Be sure what level of care is required. Does your family member need relatively straightforward residential care, or are there particular medical requirements to consider? Not every care home offers complete nursing care capability or specialist dementia care. You can quickly eliminate options by ruling out care homes which lack the expertise or equipment necessary to provide a good level of support. A care home should take the time to provide a full care assessment, with your help and input from any GPs or other medical professionals currently involved in your loved one’s care. Current safety guidelines mean that this assessment is likely to place over video link-up.

2. Read the Care Quality Commission (CQC) report for any care home you are considering. On the CQC website you can use your postcode to search each type of care home within a suitable distance. The reports assess five key areas of care, gauging whether that home is Safe, Effective, Caring, Responsive and Well-led. The highest rating is ‘outstanding’, which is notoriously difficult to achieve. Next comes ‘good’, which indicates that every area of assessment more than meets the criteria. ‘Needs improvement’ may highlight something very minor which needs to be improved or more serious matters. It is also worth noting the date the report was produced. Many first-time inspections and re-inspections have been delayed during the pandemic; any improvements suggested by the CQC when writing the report may now have been addressed and implemented.

3. Consider the costs for the level of care required. Most care homes have a fixed basic rate for residential care and inclusive of certain services, after which other services (particularly specialist needs) will carry additional costs. Knowing your budget will ensure that your shortlist contains only care homes in the right price bracket. The Money Advice Service can help you work out if you are eligible for financial support for NHS continuing healthcare or from your local authority.

4. Explore each care home’s website thoroughly. It can be helpful to make a table of details so you can compare options. Include things like cinema rooms, outside space, hair salons, library, dining areas and restaurants, and any other facilities or activities that stand out for you. Care homes should offer enough lifestyle benefits to reassure you that living there is life-affirming and enjoyable, that hobbies and socialising are encouraged. Does the care home you’re looking at offer enough flexibility and support at mealtimes?

5. Look around. Sadly, an in-person visit is not currently possible at care homes, due to the need to protect vulnerable residents. Most care homes will offer the next best

thing; not just a video tour on their website, but a guided virtual tour in real-time, over Zoom, Facetime or similar online video streaming. This will allow you to see every area of the home, its facilities, and see how it operates and how its staff and residents are spending their time. Don’t be shy about asking to see something in detail or to take your time looking around a particular area. Once things return to normal, physically visiting the home will give you a chance to experience the atmosphere in the home.

6. Ask about infection control. Even before the pandemic, care homes should already have infection prevention and containment procedures in place. Ask about PPE, sanitisation, cleaning regimens and how the residents are kept safe. Once you choose a care home, for the foreseeable future it is probably that your loved one will need to have a quarantine period when they enter the home. Ask how this works, how they will be cared for and how they will still get to take part in activities and avoid loneliness.

7. Ask as many questions as you like. This is a big decision and any reputable care home will encourage you to find out all you need to know. They should also be able to introduce you to other members of staff, including the care home manager, and even some residents. Age UK has provided an extremely useful checklist of questions you can ask and things to look out for. Much of the information will be available on each care home’s website, but no website can be definitive.

Choosing a care home can seem like a daunting task. But a good care home is somewhere that life becomes richer and more rewarding for the people who move there. To be sure that’s the case, don’t hesitate to find out what you need to know. To arrange a meeting with your preferred Baycroft location, visit the locations page on our website, choose the site you’re considering, and get in touch.