Making the decision to move a relative into a care home can often be a difficult one with many factors to consider. Care homes provide a safe environment and offer vital support for a range of medical and emotional needs which means this move is usually a positive step for those who require additional care.
However, it can be overwhelming trying to decide on the right care home and at what time to make the move - especially if your relative is unable to make the decision for themselves.
To help make the process of moving a relative into care easier to understand and arrange, this helpful and informative guide will run through the key factors to consider so you can make the best decision for your loved one.
When to Start Thinking about a Care Home
There are many factors to take into consideration when contemplating moving your relative into a care home. If your relative is living at home independently but is finding it increasingly difficult to perform daily tasks, it might be time to start thinking about getting help.
When Should Someone with Dementia go into a Care Home?
The above is also relevant for those with dementia, but you might find that the need for a care home becomes more urgent when your loved one has dementia. Difficulties with memory can put your relative at risk and can result in them no longer being able to look after themselves properly. Our helpful blog post runs through the stages of dementia so you can pinpoint the severity of the condition and consider this as part of your decision.
Finding the right care home that can offer the appropriate level of support will ensure the safety and overall wellbeing of your loved one whilst giving you a great sense of relief that they are receiving the care and supervision that they need.
As moving a relative into care is such a big decision, it may also be beneficial to get a professional's opinion on the concept of a move. In this instance, you can talk to your relative's healthcare professional, e.g. GP or social worker, and they can assess the situation and offer you advice. One of the ways a social worker can help is by carrying out a care needs assessment via your local social services. This assessment will help to establish the level of care an individual needs and the recommended next steps.
Potential Alternatives to a Care Home
It's not uncommon for the elderly to be reluctant to move into a care home as it involves having to leave the comfort of their own home and many also feel like they are losing their independence. As a result, many families feel they should explore all other care options before they start looking at residential care homes.
One alternative is to adapt your relative's home in order to make daily tasks easier. This could consist of simple things like putting in a rail above the banister to make going up and down the stairs easier. Another option is to add a police-approved key safe near the front door for family members or carers to let themselves into the house without your relative having to get up and down each time. Take a look at our home aids for a range of simple products that can go a long way in helping an elderly relative with reduced mobility and strength. If you would like more information and advice, read Age UK's top tips for a comfortable home.
Some families feel that homecare is better suited to their circumstances. There are many types of homecare services available, including visiting home carers or personal assistants, and this is decided by your local authority.
These services include getting in and out of bed, washing and bathing, preparing meals, cleaning and fitting equipment, as well as making appropriate adaptations to the home. Homecare has many benefits as it is very flexible and offers different levels of care without the long term commitment. Most local councils charge for the services they provide in the home; some place an upper weekly limit on the amount you have to pay. For more information, contact your local council.
Another option which can be considered before moving a relative into a care home is sheltered housing, or extra-care housing. This allows your relative to still live independently but with additional support. This option is also good for those who want to live in a smaller and easier-to-manage home. Features can vary from scheme to scheme, but common features include:
- Help from a scheme manager or support staff.
- 24-hour emergency help through an alarm system.
- Communal areas such as gardens or lounges.
- Social activities for residents.
General help around the home, preparing meals and personal care services are not usually provided. You can arrange a package of services from the local authority or a private care agency. Be sure to understand what services are available, how much they cost and whether your relative would be eligible for any help with these costs when looking into a particular scheme.
Note: Unlike care homes, sheltered housing is not inspected or given ratings; assisted living gives more support than sheltered housing but still allows independent living.
If you feel that you have tried these alternatives or these options don't fit your relative's circumstances, it might be that a care home is the best option. Care homes have lots of benefits for your relative and they provide you with peace of mind that your loved one is receiving the care they need and deserve.
Top Tips on Finding the Right Care Home
All care homes offer accommodation and personal care and there are specialist types of care home that offer additional services for residents with greater needs. The different types of care homes available are:
- Care Home: Provides personal care such as washing, dressing, taking medication and going to the toilet. Also offers social activities such as games or day trips.
- Nursing Home: Provides personal care as well as assistance from qualified nurses. Sometimes called care homes with nursing.
- Care Homes with Dementia Care: A nursing home for dementia patients.
- Dual-Registered Care Homes: Accepts residents that need both personal and nursing care. This means that someone who initially needs personal care but later needs nursing care won't have to move homes.
When looking for the right care home for your relative there are multiple factors to take into consideration. As this can be overwhelming, we encourage you to ask yourself and contemplate the following:
1. Does the care home provide the right type of care required now, or that could be needed in the future?
2. Does the home currently have spaces, if not, how long is the waiting list?
3. Does the home have a nice atmosphere? Before visiting a place, read the care home's brochure or website, or speak to the staff to get a feel for the place.
4. Read the most recent inspection report for the home. You can either ask the home for it or look for it on the CQC website.
If your relative has had a fall or has an on-going medical condition, it's also worth double checking the care home's policy in regards to residents who need to go into hospital for longer periods, and if you are still expected to pay the care home fees when the resident is in hospital. Some care homes will suspend payment for the duration of the hospital stay if it is over a certain period - so it is worth being clear on this policy. For a more comprehensive list of questions to consider, take a look at Age UK's care home question checklist.
Another factor to consider is that, if your relative has a beloved pet, you should check to see if the care home accepts pets. If your loved one can take their pet into the care home with them it may increase their willingness to move into the care home and also make their transition into their new home easier.
How to Ease the Transition into a Care Home
Moving into a care home can be an emotional time for both the residents and their family. However, this transition can be turned into a positive experience with the following simple suggestions:
Personalise their room and make it homely.
Place familiar objects around your loved one's room, such as photographs, ornaments or a favourite chair. This will make their room feel more like home and help them settle in much quicker.
Pack the right clothes and toiletries.
Try and pack your loved one enough clothes and toiletries for at least two weeks. Remember to put a name tag on each piece of clothing so that they don't get mixed up with the washing of other residents' in the laundry room. Try to pack toiletries that your loved one normally uses at home as the familiar smells will help your relative in the settling in process.
Give the staff lots of information.
The staff at the care home want to help make your relative's move into the care home as positive as possible. So, before your loved one moves in, give the care home staff some information about your relative's life so they can use this to develop a relationship with their new resident as quickly as possible. This will also help the resident feel more at home if they are able to have conversations with the staff about special events in their life.
This information could be in the form of highlights about your loved one, or a short story about them as well as photographs of them with family members. Things to include could be: Where did they grow up? When and where did they get married? How many children and grandchildren do they have? What was their occupation?
Spend time at the home before they move in.
Care home staff often say that residents settle in quicker and loved ones feel more reassured if they spend some time at the care home before moving in. This can prompt your relative to get to know staff members and other residents and get to know the daily routines before they move in. This prevents the change from being too much of a shock to the system.
Be there for them when they make the move.
On the day of the move give yourself enough time to do whatever comes up and be prepared to stay for the day. Try to complete all forms and important tasks beforehand so that your time can be spent making your loved one feel as comfortable as possible and making their room feel like home.
You're likely to feel a mixture of emotions on this day - relief that your relative is going to be receiving the care they need, sadness that they are leaving their home, worry about whether they will settle in okay. All of these emotions are perfectly normal and understandable, but try and be as positive as possible to reassure your family member and help them to feel positive too.
We hope this guide has been informative and given you some useful advice on how to move your relative into a care home and make it a positive experience for everyone involved.