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Tips for choosing a care home

Tips for choosing a care home
Sarah Guthrie, the daughter of Wing Commander Branse Burbridge, talks through her family’s choice of care home for her mum and dad and offers advice on choosing the right place for your elderly parent.

As my dad’s Alzheimer’s worsened he went into a care home in Oxford, where my parents lived, for around 9 to 10 months and in that time we became aware that my mum really couldn’t manage living on her own. We decided to move them nearer to me, in Hertfordshire, into a care home where they could be together.

There are many feelings you have to deal with and factors to consider when choosing a care home. Here are just a few along with my personal experiences:

  • Often you feel guilty when you put your parents into a care home but when you move your parents from somewhere familiar to an unfamiliar setting it’s natural to feel remorseful. Although it was painful for my mum to move out of her home she knew it was the right thing to do and we knew it was the best thing for her.
  • Choose a care home with end-of-life care if possible. An important factor in my family’s decision was that my parents’ care home provided end-of-life care. We knew that we wouldn’t have to move our parents when the time came. A tremendous amount of love, care and support surrounded my mum when she died and still surrounds my dad today. Choosing a care home with end-of-life care meant that my mum wasn’t taken to hospital or transferred to a strange environment. She could feel at home and be comforted by that knowledge in her last weeks of life.
  • Price may be influential but ideally it shouldn’t be a determining factor. My parents’ care home was more reasonable than others in the area. A home should be comfortably within what you can afford, but when it comes to the right place for your parents, actually cost is not so important.
  • Don’t be misled by the grandeur of some care homes. Often one chooses the home for the surroundings. We didn’t look for somewhere that was palatial as we knew that dad would be deteriorating and so spaciousness wouldn’t be a priority. Your parents need to feel comfortable and secure. They need to feel like they're living in a homely environment as much as possible. The care home where my dad lives at the moment operates like a family. It’s a place where the residents are treated as individuals, each with their life history taken into account.
  • A reliable care home is often one that you’ve dealt with before. When we were searching for a home to move our parents into my mother-in-law was in a local care home nearby. The local home was one we trusted and we knew that mum and dad would be happy there because my mother-in-law was happy there. My mum and mother-in-law knew each other well which eased the transition for my mum when it came time to move into the care home.
  • Find a care home that offers a range of facilities for different needs. If your parents’ health is likely to decline over time you want to ensure that the care home you pick has suitable accommodation and staff trained to deal with every eventuality. When my mum started having falls we were able to move her from the sheltered accommodation to a secure residential wing within one care home facility. This meant that she wasn’t disorientated by the swift transition or distraught that her belongings had gone astray.
  • It’s very important to get Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) established well before you need to because once your parents lose the capacity to make decisions for themselves it becomes much harder to manage their finances. It’s not true that you can’t have control over their finances without it, but gaining EPA means that you’ll have the authority to deal with money matters on their behalf.

These things happen to everyone and we all have to face the reality of what’s going to happen as our parents get older and need care in later life. With the funds raised from auctioning dad's medals we hope to be able to afford his stay in a care home where he’s comfortable and cared for completely until he leaves us for a better place.

Do you have other tips to offer? Do you feel there’s too much choice or little of what you want in a care home on offer? Let us know with a comment below.

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