Tips for Choosing Care – by Andrea Sutcliffe

Finding a care home for a parent or loved one can feel like an overwhelming decision for many. How do you find a home where your relative will be well cared for, safe and happy?

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England. All NHS services, care homes, and home care agencies are inspected by CQC to help ensure people are provided with safe, compassionate, high-quality care.

Andrea Sutcliffe, Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care at CQC, provides her tips and advice to help you make informed decisions about care.

Plan:  Unfortunately, most people will avoid discussing nursing or residential care options with a relative until something unexpected happens. This could result in making a decision in an emergency, which might lead to not making the best choice.

Start thinking about your priorities early and talk to your loved one about what is important to them. For example, if your relative likes to garden or be outdoors you might want to prioritise homes with an outdoor space. Also think about accessibility. Is the home close enough to family, friends, and community facilities?

Research:  When looking at a care home, make sure you check out the CQC report.

When CQC inspectors inspect a care home, one of the most important questions they ask is “Would I be happy for someone I love to live here?”. I call this the ‘mum test’ and it helps us to judge whether we rate a service Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate.

If you’re worried about paying for care, you can contact your local council’s social services department. They will ‘make an assessment of your needs’ and depending on circumstances, may be able to help you access financial help. Charities like The Alzheimer’s Society and Carers UK will also have information about how you can access financial assistance.

Visit:  As well as reading the CQC report, go and visit the care homes that you’ve shortlisted as potential homes for your loved one. Make sure you have a chat with the manager – the way the care home is run has a crucial impact on people’s lives – and if there are areas of concern in CQC’s report of the home, ask the manager what they are doing about it. If they understand there are problems and are taking action to put it right, that is reassuring. But if someone is dismissive of the report, I would be concerned.

Do also ask the residents and their visitors for their honest opinion of the home. Never take anything at face value. The care home may look lovely, but observe how staff interact with people. Is there a friendly, relaxed atmosphere? Are people being treated with dignity and respect? Are they being engaged, or left to sit in front of a television with not much going on?

Look at the environment. It doesn’t have to be brand new and shiny, but it should be clean. More importantly, does it feel right? Do people have the option to bring in mementoes to make their environment more personal? Don’t just look at the reception areas take a look at the rooms, too. Take your time, and make sure you feel confident that your loved one is going to have a good experience.

Think positive: Many people feel anxious about choosing a care home, but we know from feedback we receive that it can be a positive experience for the entire family. I hope that these tips will help you achieve that.

For more information about CQC report and ratings visit or call 03000 616161