Choosing the right care home can be challenging at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic.

On top of the criteria you, your friends and family have in mind to ensure your comfort and wellbeing, there are some extra details worth considering to ensure your safety.

Coronavirus has halted a lot of things, however, people still need care and support; the good news is you can still access it. Care homes continue to accept new admissions and home care agencies new clients. Whilst the process of finding a care home may be a little different, some things remain the same as ever. In this article, we look at what to keep in mind when looking for a care home during the pandemic, and how to go about the process.

Research remains key

The internet is a great place to find information about care homes. You may want to stay in your local area or perhaps you’re considering moving closer to friends and family. Whatever your circumstances, the Care Choices website is a helpful, independent and unbiased resource to support your search for care. Not only is there advice about choosing a care home, you can also search for homes using filters such as Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating to create an informed shortlist. 

You might prefer to find out the information you need by word of mouth or over the phone. Talking to friends and family about their advice and recommendations can be very helpful here. You could also talk to your GP about choosing a care home or reach out to your local community for support.

To complement the Care Choices website, an annual series of regional care services directories are published country-wide in association with local authorities. Amongst a whole host of topical information, the directories can help to guide you through the process of choosing a care home. The directories also include lists of all CQC-registered care providers in the area, including contact details. You can find details of these publications here, and can also order a copy to be delivered directly to your door.

The right questions to ask

You probably had a million questions in mind when choosing a care home before the pandemic struck. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial that you ask the right questions to ensure that your needs are met and your safety is prioritised.

Once you have your care home shortlist, speak to the Registered Manager or equivalent senior staff member at each home. As well as answering your questions, this conversation should put you at ease and will give you the opportunity to get a feel of what every day life will be like at each home.

It makes sense to prepare any questions or talking points you’d like to cover in advance, to make sure that everything you will need from a prospective home is accounted for.

To keep things simple, we have put together a collection of helpful checklists with questions to consider when choosing a care home. They cover a wide range of topics, including things like staff training, whether residents are able to go out, and if the home allows pets. You can view the checklists online or download and print them out to keep handy when you’re talking to staff.

Seeing the home

Whilst visits to each care home would be the next step under normal circumstances, this is unlikely to happen during coronavirus. Instead, you may be offered a virtual tour of each home using a mobile phone or tablet. Again, this is your chance to ask your burning questions and speak to the wider staff cohort. It’s important to remember that you are not imposing by asking questions. Your safety and wellbeing should be central to all conversations about choosing your care home.

Addressing your coronavirus concerns

Since the pandemic began, you may have seen a lot in the media questioning the safety of care homes and their ability to cope with coronavirus. Whilst they have faced an enormous challenge, it’s important to remember that all eligible care homes with older residents across England have now been offered a COVID-19 vaccine to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Furthermore, all care home staff across England should have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) which must be worn wherever possible. Regular testing is another fundamental aspect of every care home’s effort to contain coronavirus. You should ask each home you are considering how often both staff and residents are tested and what the procedure is if a test shows a positive result for coronavirus.

All good care homes will recognise the importance of maintaining contact with friends and family while you are living in a care home, especially during coronavirus. Most care homes have adapted their visiting procedures to minimise the risk of infection and you may also have access to technology that will enable you to talk with your loved ones via video calls. Ask all care homes you are considering what their provision is in this area.