A care home visit presents the perfect opportunity for care seekers to ask any questions they may have about the home. When making a life-changing decision for yourself or a loved one, the more questions the merrier! It is so important that you get as much out of the visit as possible and leave with a good idea of whether the home is right for your loved one.
We completely understand that if you are new to searching for care, you may appreciate some direction as to what questions you should be asking during your initial visit. This is why we have outlined what we class as being the top 5 most important questions to ask the Care Home Manager within this article.
Top 5 Questions...
1. What is included in the costs?
We highly recommend asking the care home for a breakdown of everything that is included in their fees and whether there are any services/luxuries which incur an additional cost such as laundry services, toiletries, hairdressing appointments or WIFI connection.
It is also advisable to enquire what the care homes annual price increase tends to be so that you can be prepared for any increases whilst your loved one is residing at the care home. You may like to ask how they collect payments, how frequently they take payment and on what days.
It's a mandatory requirement for care homes to arrange activities for residents, included in the weekly fee. Your visit to the care home is the best time to ask about what kind of activities are arranged and whether they have activities that align with your loved one's interests and hobbies such as gardening, arts & crafts or music. You may even be fortunate enough to observe one of the activities in action, take a look at an example activities calendar or meet with the Activities Coordinator (if the home has one) during your visit. Remember to ask how regularly activities are held and whether the home is active in their local community (e.g. do they invite local schools and performers into the home or arrange events).
Another important topic to broach with the home is how their mealtimes work: Are mealtimes at set times? Do they cater for special diets? Where do residents eat their meals? Does the menu change on a regular basis? If your loved one has special dietary requirements, it is certainly worth asking the Manager whether you can speak with the Chef to discuss this with them in more detail. Mealtimes are such a big part of our day to day lives so it is crucial that the home you choose for your loved one is able to meet their dietary needs no matter how complex. You may like to request an example of a menu so that you can get an idea of what kind of meals are provided to residents.
One of the areas you are likely to have lots of questions about is what would be included in your loved one's bedroom and what it will be like. It is probable that you will be shown an example of a bedroom where possible, at which point you can ask any burning questions you have such as:
- What furniture would be included in the bedroom?
- Is the bedding provided?
- Will there be the option to have an en-suite toilet/shower room?
- Does the room come with a tv, telephone or radio?
- Would it be ok to swap the furniture for their own if they wish?
Other facilities worth asking about are the shared facilities within the home including living areas, dining rooms, library, quiet spaces, salon, sunrooms and garden spaces. During your tour of the home, you will have a chance to observe which areas seem to be the most popular with residents and what the atmosphere is like around the home.
2. What is your resident to staff ratio?
A popular question Home Managers often get asked is what their resident to staff ratio is which they should be able to answer for you. Whilst walking around the home you will also be able to observe the number of staff you see & whether they seem calm or rushed off their feet.
On the topic of staff, you may be interested in whether the home uses agency staff as well as their own staff particularly if your loved one has dementia and becomes unsettled with inconsistency/new people. Agency staff are sourced by an external Recruitment Staffing Agency and they move around different care homes to help where additional support is needed.
Another question you may like to ask a Home Manager is whether they have staff who are specifically trained to support your loved ones individual care needs, for instance, dementia, Parkinson's or Epilepsy.
3. Will you be able to support my loved one if their needs grow?
The transition of moving into a care home can be hugely unsettling, particularly for an older person who has spent their whole adult life living independently. Therefore, it is perfectly normal for families to wish to find a care home that will be able to support their loved ones even if their care requirements increase. In other words, they are looking to find a forever home for their loved one where their needs can continue to be met even as they grow more complex.
We would like to settle a common misconception that only nursing homes can provide end of life care. Residential homes can also provide end of life care. Providing the individuals needs are not assessed as nursing, a residential home can support a person until the end of their life.
4. What happens when the money runs out?
If it has been determined that your loved one will be privately funding their care, you may be worried about what will happen when their funds deplete and they become eligible for Local Authority funding. Will the home be able to continue supporting your loved one? Will your loved one have to move to a cheaper care home? These are important questions that we recommend you discuss with the Home Manager during your visit.
Many care providers are very understanding and will allow your loved ones to continue receiving their care whilst you apply for funding. In some cases, care providers may be amenable to lowering the Local Authority rate so that your relative can continue to receive care from the home.
5. What are your visiting arrangements?
Particularly since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, visiting arrangements and policies at care homes have been a hot topic. During your initial visit, be sure to ask the following questions which will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of visiting your relative:
- Do friends & family visits have to be booked or can I just turn up?
- Are there any visiting protocols that need to be followed? (i.e. wearing PPE, taking a lateral flow test, social distancing)
- Is there a time limit on visits?
- Do you have opening hours for visits?
- What is the parking like for visitors?
- Is there a limit on how many visitors a resident can have?