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What should I ask? - Carers UK Forum

What should I ask?

Share information, support and advice on all aspects of caring.
Hi all, Reluctantly and out of necessity, I'm travelling the 'find a Home' road because Mum's needs are getting far too much for me to cope with, even with good care workers in place. I believe that it would be better for Mum and me if she was cared for 24/7, especially at night. (She is alone in her bungalow at night). It's not a done deed. I don't intend to bundle her into the first available place and I am visiting local Homes to get the 'feel' of them. I'm asking for advice re questions beyond the obvious 'How Much?'. What questions did you not ask, and wish you had? What should I be looking out for? How do I judge that Mum really would be looked after? Any input would be very welcome.
I think there's some 'subjectivity' that is also an indicator of 'objective' measures. You do get a feel for a place, both pro and anti, which is an indicator I think. Sometimes the 'feel' is not the fault of any of the staff, but simply the place itself.

For example, when my MIL had to move to a specialist dementia home, the one I thought would be the best wasn't in the end - not because the staff weren't dedicated and friendly, but the place was an old Victorian house, with a large modern annexe, and because it dealt with severe dementia cases to be honest the whole place I found intensely depressing, even in the social rooms in the older Victorian section.

I then saw another place that was set on a hill, lovely views, and purpose built like a long 'motel' in that the rooms were all aligned along a long corridor, and the south facing rooms all had lovely views, as did the large dining room and the residents lounge. I just instantly liked it better (and luckily they had a vacancy, so that is where MIL is).

Don't be afraid of trying your mum out in one place, but then moving her to another. I did this with MIL (she went into that first place first, but went to the second place a few weeks later).

Be cautious about signing the contract - I was fortunate in that I hadn't signed for the first home, and so she was able to move across to the second home without incurring a 'notice' period.

One downside of the second home is that it won't keep her if she lives long enough to have spent all her money from the sale of her flat, whereas the first one would have (so if she lasts as long as your mum, then alas, she may well end up back in that first home.....)

PS - your mum probably won't like any home you find.... (sigh). But then, would any of us actually prefer to end our days in a home, rather than in our own home???? (But, yet again, that's what can happen if one lives 'too long'......)(all so, so sad, sigh.)
If you google "Guide to Residential Care" you'll find all sorts of information. It all boils down to one simple question "Would I be happy to live here, if I was mum?" You know mum better than anyone else. Apart from the basics, how close is it to your home, is it an easy journey, is the parking easy, do they have a vacancy, and can I afford it, you will very soon get the feel of the place. Especially if you arrive about half an hour before lunch. Does the food look and smell nice (food is the highlight of the day for many residents). Is everyone clean, tidy, happy. Do they have a minibus, activity programme, are all considerations. (However, my mum refused point blank to go out of her room to socialise, so most of this was irrelevant.) What was important to mum was cleanliness, availability of staff to help her, when she was bedridden, and the friendliness of everyone. Visit the three homes nearest to you, and I'm sure you will soon work out where you would like mum to go.
I did the nursing home tour before Dad was discharged from hospital just to do my research into options. Fortunately it hasn't been necessary so far and we manage at home.
I agree completely that you get a feel for them. The first I visited was very local, quite small and rooms a little old fashioned and dingy- needless to say the cheapest. The second was at the highest end of the scale, more like a five star hotel purpose built last year and they even had a greyhound ornament as a single statement piece in one of the small lounges. It was the £1500 per week price tag that was the only down side. If I had had to make a practical choice it would have been the third one probably, set so each room looked out onto nicely kept gardens, spacious and homely. There seemed enough room to either be sociable or find your own space, activities and privacy, decent staff, ease of parking for visitors and a middle of the road price about £1200 per week.
It's worth considering the longer term too and how needs might change. My dad was in a home classed as residential and nursing. Their charges were on a four point rising scale, reflecting the level of care that was needed.
Good point. Also, check how much each room costs, as they can vary. At my MIL's the rooms with a view cost more than the inner looking ones, and some are larger than others and therefore more expensive as well.

In respect of the lavish 5 star ones, the one local to me here up country in the Home Counties is incredibly so, like a huge luxury hotel, but it isn't in the least homely, and I wouldn't have put MIL in there (even if it were affordable at something like £1200 a week)(possibly more.)

Also, what is important to your mum? My MIL used to get great pleasure looking out of the window in her Glasgow flat over the comings and goings out in the road, and certainly likes to see greenery (foxes used to cavort in the gardens on the non-road side, coming up from the old canal down the hill). Her current home has bird feeders all over the lawns, which is a nice touch too I think. By contrast, the luxury home here has a very pretty courtyard garden, but no view at all.

See how much of their own things they can bring with them. MIl's home encourages things like their own comfy armchairs, and lots of ornaments and photos and things, and bedside lamps and tables, to make it feel more like their 'own place' (can be important for dementia people of course as well, because familiar). Bedding can be an issue - another post here on the forum mentions her mum thinks the bedding at the home is coarse. So maybe check it out, and possibly provide your mum's own bedding?

PS - EVERYTHIGN will need to be nametagged! Like going off to school. I got iron on ones from our local schoolshop! I didn't put MIL's first name on, just her two initials, and her surname, and that way any leftovers can be used by my son on sports kit etc, with the initials cut off! (Or, of course, saved for me in a couple of decades!!!!!!!!!!!)
PPS - this is somewhat 'sensitive' point, and not something 'We Brits' usually discuss 'out loud' but it's this.

You will probably get a feel for the current residents, and whether they are the 'sort of people' your mum would choose to be with were she not in a home.....at the two extremes are whether she would feel 'superior' to them, or 'inferior'.

Sorry to raise this subject, but again, it's there 'underneath' anyway, and also, the older generation tend to be a lot blunter about it than our more egalitarian generation!!
Just thought of yet something else! In MIL's care home, they specifically recommend that residents bring in their OWN television set, as they know how tricky it is to learn how to use a new TV and controller (and that's not just elderly people with dementia of course!!!!)(I HATE learning a new TV remote!!!!!!) :)
My husband and I did the rounds of local care homes when we realised that my mum would need residential care (for physical needs, mentally still sharp as a pin!). We narrowed it down to a couple which, in many respects, were diametrically opposite to each other.

No. 1 was a modern, purpose-built home with wide corridors, beautifully decorated public rooms, a bar (!), lots of activities and mum would have had her own "suite" of living room, bedroom, kitchenette and ensuite. While the staff were very informative and approachable, we both felt a certain lack of "warmth".

No. 2 was a converted Edwardian "gentleman's residence", reasonably decorated but a bit frayed around the edges. Mum was offered a first-floor single ensuite bedroom (admittedly with a lovely view of the large country garden!). The staff were concerned, friendly and caring.

Mum chose "No. 2", and although there have been some minor issues with the quality of the food and the lift breaking down rather more frequently than it should, neither she nor I have ever regretted it from the point-of-view of the staff and the care she receives.

Go with your gut feeling!

PS Mum's home is also a nursing home, so if the need ever arises then she won't have to move.

PPS We were allowed to install a telephone line to her room (not that she can use the phone because she's too deaf!), but it gives her her essential internet access so that we can "chat" to each other by email.
Pennie - could your mum manage to Skype do you think? That would be even better than email!