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How to find a suitable care home

There are many things we may want to consider when looking for a care home. From how care home fees work to questions to ask when visiting a care home.

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What’s the difference between a care home and nursing home?

The first step to deciding on a care home is knowing the difference between care homes, residential care homes, nursing homes and respite care homes. Let’s dive into them below.

Residential care homes

We often see that care homes are used interchangeably with ‘residential care’ or ‘residential care homes’. This is the main type of care home people often refer to. It consists of paid carers providing 24 hours of care in a residential (home-style) environment.



Nursing care home

Unlike a care home, a nursing home includes more medically enhanced care, often carried out by a qualified nurse or professional. This makes nursing homes a better option for those with more complex health conditions.

Some care homes will have a nursing ‘wing’ attached to them.


Carehome is a great source for filtering care homes by diagnosis or condition or the person we look after.

What do nurses do in a care home?

A nurse’s role in a care home may differ depending on the care home. Primarily, they should be our main ‘go-to’ contact on keeping us posted about our loved ones, arranging their medicines and reviewing their overall health.


We can read more on what to expect from a care home in our article ‘When is the right time for a care home?’.

Respite care homes

Unlike care homes, respite care homes are temporary stays in a care home, offering us and the person we look for a short break. If we or the person we care for is not ready for the long-term commitment, respite care homes may be a better option.



They can try it a couple of times for respite care to double check if it’s the one they would like to be their future permanent home


There are also other alternatives to care homes we can consider. Such as assisted living and retirement homes.

What's the difference between a care home and nursing home?
Respite care homes

How to choose a care home

Below we’ve listed some practical steps to help decide whether a care home is right for us and the person we look after. With some top tips shared by carers in the Mobilise community.

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It’s helpful to know that if the Care Needs Assessment and Financial Needs Assessment agree that a funded place is needed, the person we care for will be presented with Care Home options to choose from. This may limit their/ our choice somewhat, but we can still use the below steps to help decide between care homes, when a choice is given.



1. Check the quality of care

Check the quality of care against the Care Quality Commission. They have inspection reports of lots of care homes which will give us peace of mind. It’s like the OFSTED of care homes. We can also check the reviews.



2. Recommendations from other people

Carers in the Mobilise community suggest asking for recommendations from people whose loved ones have the same condition or diagnosis. If we don’t know anyone, it might be helpful to have a quick search to see if there is a local Facebook page for people supporting the same condition or diagnosis.



3. Visit the care home in person

Go see the care home in person if possible. Check to see if they have accessible ramps (if the person we care for is in a wheelchair). And whether bathrooms are also accessible. By visiting, we can also get a sense of how big the care home is (if it’s easy to get around) and if the staff are friendly.



Visit the care home with your loved ones so they can see which one feels like home.



4. Narrow down the list of care homes to consider

Making a shortlist of the care homes we visited and may want to consider can help us narrow down our options. It can also help us see commonalities between what we like about the ones on our list.



The most expensive is not necessarily providing better care and can be large

soulless places




5. Prepare questions to ask the care home

Most carers have highlighted that preparation is key! Knowing what questions to ask can help us deal with overwhelm when we visit the care home. See some of the questions we can ask when visiting a care home below.



6. Check if the care meets our cultural needs

It’s just as important to ensure that the person we care for is looked after with the same care and dignity we would provide at home. We can ask the care home for more information on how care is carried out. Raising any concerns we have.



How to challenge discrimination in a care home

If we’d like to make a complaint about the care home, we should report to the home manager. AgeUK has a helpful step-by-step guide on how we can raise our concerns further up should we have any.



7. Staff turnover

Carers in the Mobilise community have shared that staff turnover can also be a good indicator of a good care home. A low staff turnover suggests that staff are treated well and so are more likely to stay and provide better care. This is also helpful for our loved ones if they have built rapport with the staff.

Care home costs

One of the biggest worries, when looking for a care home, is cost.


How much the fees will be and how much the person we care for, will have to contribute. Working out fees, contributions and funding can feel overwhelming.

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What is the average cost of care homes per week UK?

For some of us, care homes can be a big financial investment. As of 2022, here is how much we can expect to pay on average:


  • Residential care homes - £704 per week

  • Nursing care homes - £888 per week


Nursing care homes cost slightly more than care homes because they tend to provide a higher degree of care (including medical care) for those who have complex health needs.


How much we pay for a care home will also largely depend on where we live in the UK (such as England, Wales or Scotland). With the most expensive care homes being the ones closer to London.


The cost of a care home can also depend on the care home provider, so it’s always worth asking a few to compare.


If the person you care for is eligible for a funded place, your local council will have a budget they are working to, and this will determine the home or homes you are offered.


As a start, we’ll share different types of funding available for care homes.

Funding from the NHS for care home costs

If the person we’re looking after has a ‘primary health need’, the NHS will pay for all of the care home fees. This funding is known as the NHS Continuing Healthcare and is only available for adults.


It’s helpful to know that there’s a difference between a ‘primary health need’ and ‘social care needs’. Which includes help with day-to-day tasks such as eating or personal care.


The primary health need is also not dependent on the condition or diagnosis. Rather it’s largely dependent on the outcome of the NHS Continuing Healthcare Assessments needed to be eligible for the NHS Continuing Healthcare.


How do I apply for an NHS Continuing Healthcare Assessment?

If we feel like we may be eligible for NHS Continuing Healthcare funding, contact the GP or social worker, who will make a referral.


If we find that the person we care for is not eligible for the NHS Continuing Healthcare funding (but will benefit from a nursing care home), they may be able to receive the NHS-funded nursing care. This means the NHS will pay for the nursing care component of nursing home fees, directly to the nursing care home.


The process of getting an NHS continuing healthcare assessment can get confusing very quickly. If we feel like we need some more help, Beacon offers free independent advice.


Funding from the local council for care home costs

If the person we care for doesn’t have a primary health need, then they may have a social care need. They may be able to access some financial support towards their care home.


In England, the local council can help with care home costs if there is less than £23,250 in savings.


To know if our council can help with care home costs, the person we care for will need to have a Needs Assessment by social care, and a Financial Assessment.


What’s the difference between an NHS Continuing Healthcare Assessment and a Needs Assessment?

An NHS Continuing Healthcare Assessment will assess for a ‘primary health need’, while a Needs Assessment carried out by our local council or social services, will assess social care and financial needs.


Will we have to sell the family home to pay for a care home?

The thought of selling the family home to fund a care home place can be very stressful. This is especially the case, if we live with the person we care for but it is legally their home.


Currently, the home will not be included in the financial assessment in certain circumstances for example if another family member lives there, such as:

  • A partner or civil partner

  • A close relative who is aged 60 or over

  • A close relative who is incapacitated:

  • A relative who is caring for a child under 18 or a family member who has a disability (who must live with them).


What is a Needs Assessment?

A Needs Assessment is carried out by our local council (or social services) and assesses the care needs of the vulnerable person (the person we look after). It goes through how they manage their day to day lives such as physical challenges. This can be arranged either in person or over the telephone. As carers, if the person we care for wishes, our wishes can also be taken into account during the assessment.


After a needs assessment, the council will follow up with a financial assessment. This is a means-tested assessment, where they will look at the income and capital.


Are care home fees capped?

There is currently no cap on care home fees until 2025. From October 2025, there will be a cap of £86,000 which is the maximum amount anyone will have to pay for personal care to meet their eligible care and support needs.


If you're considering care homes in the next couple of years, it may be worth taking a look now at what your options are.


You may want to have a look at different types of funding your loved ones may be eligible for from the NHS or the local council. If you’re able to get full funding for care home costs through the NHS (known as the NHS Continuing Healthcare) the cap will not affect this.


It’s also important to note that although there is currently no cap, your local council will not pay for the more expensive care homes.


What happens if the person you care for can’t afford a care home?

If you can’t afford to pay the care home fees, there are funds from the NHS (NHS Continuing Healthcare) or local council that may help.


In England, your local council can offer paid support towards care homes if you have less than £23,350 in your savings and assets (including property), through a needs assessment.


Breakdown for other areas:

  • Scotland: £28,750

  • Wales: £50,000

  • Northern Ireland: £23,250


In simple terms, this is the amount of money you can have before we have to pay the care home costs.


The NHS can pay for all the care home costs if the person you look after has a ‘primary health need’. This is done through an NHS Continuing Healthcare Assessment.


Can you claim Attendance Allowance in a care home?

If the care home fees are paid in full by the local council or by NHS, Attendance Allowance will stop 28 days after the person we care for has been in a care home.


If the person we care for is self funding (paying for the care home fees themselves), then they can continue receiving Attendance Allowance.


If we’re receiving Carer’s Allowance, this will be stopped if the person we look after goes into a care home.

How to choose a care home
Care home costs
Funding from the council
Funding from the NHS

Questions to ask when visiting a care home

Some of the questions we can ask when visiting a care home include:


  • Is there parking and is it free?

  • Is the building wheelchair accessible (including bathrooms)?

  • How are the rooms maintained?

  • How secure is the care home?

  • What ratio of your staff are agency staff?

  • How are temperatures around the building regulated (heaters/air conditioning)?

  • Does the care home have any vacancies - if so, how long is the waiting period?

  • What do the meal-time arrangements look like?

  • What does a normal day in the care home look like?

  • Are there any social activities for my loved ones?

  • How often are health checks - and who decides?

  • How often will I be able to visit or contact my loved ones?

  • Who would my point of contact be?


Remember, there’s no limit to how many questions we can ask. It’s important we (and the person we care for) feel safe and as comfortable as possible with any decision we make. If we have any niggles, simply ask.

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Care home for the elderly

There are many helpful websites that allow us to search for care homes, particularly if we’d like to filter for groups of people (such as the elderly) or by condition.


It may be helpful to also familiarise ourselves with the difference between care homes, residential care homes and nursing care homes.


Once we’re feel more confident about the different types of care homes, we can take a look at some websites suggested by carers below:



Autumna is an elderly care and retirement living directory. They have an expert team of advisors to help us along the way. And we can also request a free bespoke shortlist of care homes.



Similar to Autumna, Lottie also gives us with the option to search and compare care homes and retirement living. And receive a free shortlist of care homes to help us in our search.


Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is widely known in the UK for their inspection reports on different types of care homes and home care. With this, they also provide a list of quality inspected care homes by area.



Bupa have over 120 care homes and nursing homes across the UK. Making it easier for us to search through the possible available options for us.

When should someone with Dementia go into a care home?

If we’re caring for someone with dementia, most likely we may be wondering when is the time for them to transition into a care home. The first sign to notice is whether their dementia has progressed past the point where they need more care beyond the one we can provide. For example, we can ask ourselves do they need 24 hour care?


It can be a tough decision to make and we may not have all the answers. Carers in the Mobilise community have shared different signs that helped them notice when the right time for a care home was for them.

Alternatives to care homes for the elderly

Sometimes the person we care for needs more help, but might not be ready (or willing) for a care home. In these situations, it can be helpful to consider home care, or assisted living, or temporary respite care homes.


1. Home care - getting paid care at home

Home care, unlike care homes, is when professional paid carers come into our home to provide care. The care provided by paid carers can include personal care, housework, meal preparation, companionship and in some cases, specialist care such as for those with dementia.


This idea can take some getting used to. And the arrangement may feel uncomfortable initially. However unpaid carers in the Mobilise community have shared that it can work well, especially when we’re not ready for a move into a care home.


Our guide to getting paid care at home is a great place to start in helping us figure out if home care is a good option.


Do you have to pay for carers in your own home?

Paying for carers in our own home is known as home care - as opposed to care home. There are also different types of funding available to pay for carers in our home.


Our ‘carer's guide to getting paid care at home’ details everything we need to know. From home care costs to how much our local council can cover.


2. Assisted living

Assisted living - although not a type of care home - can be one of the options to think about before deciding on care homes or nursing homes.


Also known as ‘extra-care housing', it’s where the person we care for lives in a separate place with professional staff available (up to 24 hours a day) to assist with any extra care needed. These can include personal care or tasks around the home such as washing and will often be tailored to what our loved ones needs.


Assisted living, it allows the person we care for to still live independently with some extra care to support them.


3. Retirement living

Also referred to as a ‘retirement community’ or ‘retirement home’. Retirement living is a place for those who have retired and where care can be provided. It’s for older adults and creates a community for them to socialise, engage in different activities and be looked after.


We’ve listed a few websites that can help us find out what types of retirement homes there are.


4. Respite care home

Respite care homes are temporary stays in a care home. They may be a good option to help the person we care for find a care home they feel comfortable in, or slowly help them transition.



Can I get funding for respite care?

As carers, we may be able to get funding for respite care through a Carer’s Assessment with our local council or carers service. It helps us identify gaps in our caring needs and can offer up some room for paid support. This can then go towards respite care.


The person we care for can have their own needs assessment to help them identify their care needs and where there may be gaps in support. From this, a follow-up financial assessment helps those of us with low income, to hopefully cover respite care costs.


Our ‘carers' guide to respite’, also offers other solutions to short breaks we can consider.


Respite care direct payments

During a Carer’s Assessment, we may be able to receive financial help from our local council. Our local council will decide if we’re eligible for a personal budget, which if awarded, can go towards respite care. This can be done through direct payments to us, to the respite care company, or both.


The person we look for can also receive help towards respite costs through a Needs Assessment. They too will be allocated a personal budget to set up direct payments.


What are the benefits of respite care?

The benefits of respite care include:


  • It gives us a short break to recharge from caring. Looking after our well-being is just as important.

  • It’s a slower transition than a permanent care home, allowing the person we care for, to get ‘a feel’ of the place before committing

  • We do not have to make a permanent decision to choose care homes

  • It gives our loved ones an opportunity to socialise with people they otherwise would not

Questions to ask
Care home for the elderly
When should someone with Dementia go into a care home?
Alternatives to care homes for the elderly
What is a respite care home?

What's next?

If you'd made it all the way to the end, congratulations! It's a lot to take in at once.


Thinking about care homes for the person we care for is not easy. If you still have any questions still lingering, feel free to join the Mobilise community. It's a place where unpaid carers come together to ask each other questions and share top tips.


Carers' care home stories

Sometimes it can be helpful to learn from the experiences of carers, who are a little further ahead. Here are two carer stories, from Lynn and Christine talking about their own care home experiences:

Christine's and her husband Gordon's story

Lynn and her mother Margaret's story

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