With the recent shocking publicity about abuse and bad practice in care homes I am focusing my next posts on helping people find and assess care homes and how to spot abuse. As my own mother is in a home for people with dementia it is a subject dear to my heart!

So, how can we ensure our loved ones receive the best care possible when they are vulnerable and we entrust their care to others? While accepting that nothing can provide a 100% guarantee there is a lot we can do to minimise the risk of choosing a bad home or leaving someone that you care about in one.

When I wanted peace of mind about my own lovely Mum, I had a mental checklist of easy ways to assess the care home and ensure the care being offered was person-centred – without them feeling they were being quizzed! Let me share them with you:

1. When choosing a home, make sure the care being offered is person centred by observing both the residents and carers when you look round. Do carers look engaged with residents and enjoying their job or harassed with bells constantly left unattended? Do they bend down to talk to residents at their own level, rather than wielding their power by towering above them? 

2. Can you see evidence that they know the person they are caring for, or are they just treating them as someone to wash and dress? Check out the Manager’s attitude by asking something like “How would you respond if my mother wanted to return home” He or she should be recognising the emotional needs of insecurity your mother would be feeling and her sense of loss and talk about how she would offer support and help her with this.

3. It is very important that carers not only have the right training but also are able to transfer the training into practice and demonstrate their understanding of dementia so they can support the resident in a person centred way. Find out how carers, especially new and agency carers know about an individual’s background so they are able to enter their world. You will find it easy to spot when care is task rather than person centred because residents are washed and dressed and sitting looking lost.

4. It is a regulatery requirement that everyone who lives in a care or nursing home has a care plan . Ask how the home will use their Care Plan to ensure that your parent receives individual care for their individual needs. Ask to see an example and look for information that talks about the individual’s strengths and attributes and their likes and dislikes as well as their needs. Also ask how often care plans are reviewed and how this is done.

5. Look for evidence of meaningful engagement. Are a range of activities and outings offered to reflect different interests or are activities confined to listening to a blaring radio and watching TV in the lounge?

6. Are rooms personalised to reflect a resident’s personality? I was proudly shown a collection of tractors on some shelves once and told “Bert loves tractors” The only trouble was he spent long periods in his bed and chair which faced the other way! If you are concerned about the responsibility of finding a good care home for your elderly parent, you don’t have to do it on your own.

Here are some organisations that will help you.

Alzheimers Society www.alzheimers.org.uk

Age Uk www.ageuk.org.uk

The Relatives and Residents Association (RRA) www.relres.org

Counsel and Care www.counselandcare.org.uk