Friday, 16 May 2014

Picking a good care home - 14 tips

I have updated my advice on how to select a care home from two years ago: The most difficult aspect to caring in my experience is the transition from home to institution, especially if that institution is not up to scratch, how do you know when it is the right place for your loved one?

1) Having a Variety of Enterprises
Having been an activities coordinator and care home manager myself, I consider this to be the most important aspect to a caring environment, be it hospital, hospice, care home or your own home.  These are activities that are suitable for the individual, if possible tailored to that individual's needs.  You or your loved one might enjoy chatting, socialising, walking, looking at the garden, playing games, music - make sure you know the activities that you think you or your loved one will enjoy.  Then ensure that the environment that you are moving to enables you to experience those activities. Here is a list of 101 activities from the US that people with dementia may enjoy. Try to draw up your own comprehensive list for yourself or your loved one.
2) Manager
Meet up with the care home manager.  They should be a registered nurse and be caring, flexible and friendly.  If the staff are happy then the residents normally are too. 
3)  Well cared for and clean residents, well dressed in clothes that fit with hearing aids on and glasses on.  When you look round the place be observant and see if people are smiling and having fun. 
4) Care Quality Commission reports.  Go to the CQC website. I think the CQC are petrified of getting sued, so sometimes it is difficult to tell from reading a report if a home is good or bad.  So you may get more mileage out of these other tips above and below.
5) Gut instinct. Would you or your loved one fit in well in this place?  As you look round try to picture them in the environment, and with the staff and other residents. We know from the latest research that emotional memories (which come from the Amygdala ) are the last to go, the Hippocampus memories which are factual and logic are the first to go, so feelings are particularly important in dementia care.  This is what Tom Kitwood talked about when he described person centred care.
6) Smiling staff. At good homes both the residents and the staff are smiling. 
7) Food.  Ask to look at the menus and taste the food.  If you don't find it appetising then why would someone with dementia?
8) Time of day.  If you can visit the care home at different times of day.  9am, lunchtime and 5pm.  See how they manage 'shift changes'.
9) Flexibility.  The place should be flexible - according to the needs, requirements and wishes of its residents.  Some people prefer to retire to their rooms - does the activity coordinator do a tour of the building to include everyone and talk to people when they're on their own if that's what they want?
10) Training.  Ask to see training records.  It is a good sign if they have implemented Dementia Care Mapping for example.
11) Smell.  It is a good sign if there are nice smells emanating from the place.  Added together with the other tips on this list then it should help put your mind at rest that the place is well managed.
12) Go for lunch.  The management should be keen to show off their good food.
13) Go for the day, ask to volunteer to help out.  Again they should welcome you with open arms.  If it's a positive experience then you're on to a winner.
14) Ask for help.  If you need help picking a care home for someone with dementia in the UK, then please give me a ring on 07969 204955 or email annatatt{at}Hotmail[dot]com.  You can also find me on Facebook - I'm wearing my wedding veil or Twitter @annatatton1.

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