By Jane Helliwell and J M Pattison
Proprietors of St Ronans Care Home

First Things First

As proprietors, we are often asked for the insider’s tips on choosing a care home.  Well, first things first: ask to see a clear statement of the Terms and Conditions of Accommodation.  These should be fair, and written in plain English.  They should explain clearly what the fee covers, and what you may have to pay extra for.  You need to be aware that the home has to ask about your special requirements, needs, medical condition and social circumstances.  These will all be dealt with in the strictest confidence.  Once all this is out of the way, what should you look out for next?

Trust your Instincts

Bear in mind that a large, luxurious and expensive home may be cold and uninviting.  People need TLC. If the people running a more modest home are totally committed to their residents’ welfare and happiness, then it will be well-run, and the residents and staff will be content.  Notice I mention the staff as well – if they feel at home then the atmosphere will be all the better for it.  You can judge these things by your instinctive reaction when you visit:  meet the Registered Manager or Head of Care;  talk to the staff and residents.

More specifically, look at the sitting room(s) and dining room(s) and the room you’ve been offered. Not everyone wants to watch TV all day, so are there separate rooms for music, or for just sitting quietly or reading?  Are meal times flexible?  Can residents make cups of tea for themselves, and entertain guests?

Don’t be Pressured

Two further points:  1)  Don’t allow yourself to be talked into going into a home against your will; and  2) Make absolutely certain that any proposed home is right for you, as you do not want to have to move again.


You may be eligible for help from Social Services. However,take advice if the only place available is outside their price range:  they should not expect you to take a place hundreds of miles away!  They are obliged to take your wishes “into account”.

Even if you can afford the full cost of care, you can still ask Social Services for advice, information and help in arranging your care.  It is a good idea as well to ask about NHS Continuing Health Care payments:  in principle, you should not have to pay for your own care if the primary reason for entering a Nursing Home is to receive medical treatment.  Good luck with this, however, since the rules are strict, and rigidly enforced.

Fear of the Unknown

Finally, do not be pressured into accepting a home care package (we say this as owners of both a Care Home and a Home Care company).  Many people instinctively say they would prefer care in their own home.  This may just be fear of the unknown.  It can be a lonely life just receiving a string of, sometimes different, carers at home.  Try a good local home out for a week.  There’s a lot to be said for company, being surrounded by friendly, attentive people, and having activities on tap.  Mr Pattison’s mother was absolutely set against Residential care, until his sister arranged a week’s respite care to give herself a well-deserved break.  His mother found the week a revelation, and didn’t want to leave!