How to choose a care home

How to choose a care home

Choosing the best residential or nursing care home – for yourself, or for a loved one – can feel like a daunting task; there are so many factors to consider. It’s so important that the decision you reach is informed, and feels ‘right’ for everyone involved.

MACC Care has put together this information as a guide to ‘what to look out for’ when you are viewing care homes and considering the options available to you. We hope you find it useful.

First impressions count

As in the case with house-hunting, initial impressions are usually pretty accurate and sometimes the small details you pick up on can speak volumes. Consider how are you received when you first walk into the care home. Are you welcomed and put at your ease by the staff? Does the environment feel clean, fresh and inviting? Never ignore your first impressions or fail to trust your ‘gut instinct’.

Viewing a brand-new care home

When you are viewing a newly commissioned care home that is ready to welcome residents, it can be difficult to assess how the home will be once occupied – but don’t be put off. First impressions regarding the staff, the home’s design, facilities, amenities and so on, are still very important. Remember that initially, the ratios of staff to residents will be higher, so early residents will benefit from a quieter home and greater attention right from day one, which may help smooth the transition into care and help with settling in.

Respite care – a short stay of just a few weeks – can also be the ideal, low-commitment way to ‘try out’ a new home if you have reservations about being one of its first residents.

Think about today’s care needs – and tomorrow’s

Be sure that the right kind of care is available to meet your or your loved one’s particular needs and remember these needs will likely change over time. MACC Care homes typically offer residential, nursing, memory and respite care. Consider whether the care needs are likely to be short term – perhaps a period of convalescence after illness, with a view to returning to the residential home – or whether you should seek a best-fit ‘forever home’.

We would recommend asking the staff at the care home you are viewing whether they can accommodate changing care needs as they evolve, and how these are managed on an individual basis.

Safety measures

The safety and wellbeing of residents in care homes must be a priority. Check how easy it is for individuals to call a member of the home’s team if they need immediate assistance. Is there a call system in place so that they can easily gain help? Is safety monitoring equipment in place so that any intervention required by staff can be swift and efficient? Residents and their relatives will have their minds put at rest if safety technology is used throughout the home.

It is also worth asking about general site security, including CCTV in use at entrances, in courtyards, gardens and in car parking areas. And check what procedures are in place for fire drills/equipment testing.

Happy home life

You will naturally wish to find a home environment in which you or your loved one will soon feel relaxed, comfortable and settled. As your visit will only provide a snapshot of life at the home, try and determine how other residents seem – do they seem happy and engaged? Do they appear to be involved in activities or socialising with one another? If possible, try and see how they interact with staff and get a feel for the relationships between them.

If you like a particular home, be sure to arrange a second visit so you can look around more objectively and raise any further questions with the team.

Staff and resident relationships

When you meet with a care home manager, you need to feel confident that this person will oversee the smooth and efficient operation of the home. They should be professional, approachable, friendly and importantly, able to answer all of your questions and understand any concerns you may raise.

It may be useful to put together a list of your key questions prior to your visit, so you can be sure to come away with all the information you need – from initial resident assessment, right through to care plan management and details of the enrichment activities and social events available.

During your visit, try to observe how the care home staff engage with the residents. Is there a smile or laughter in their interactions? Do they gently support residents, encouraging independence where possible? Ask yourself if the staff seem to have taken the time to get to know residents on a personal level. Consider how the care home team appear to make the residents feel.

People very much set the tone at MACC Care – their warmth, compassion, personality and skills make a real difference to the lives of our residents.

Health management

Should an accident occur, or in the event of an illness, it’s important to know that procedures are in place. Find out if 24:7 nursing care is provided at the home and ask about emergency protocols, together with typical medical interventions, whether from a local GP practice, hospital or other providers.

Be sure to find out about access to routine health and medical care for residents too, such as dental check-ups, eye tests and chiropodist appointments.

Infection control

Infection control has been of vital importance for all care homes over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to keep residents, relatives, staff and visitors safe and well.

Ask what special facilities and measures are in place at the home, in line with latest Government guidance and how the home is prepared should a new variant of concern or other health threat emerge.

Facilities and amenities

Think carefully about the types of facilities available at the home that would offer both enjoyment and improve quality of life. Do you or your loved have green fingers or gravitate to the great outdoors? Is a wellness suite and gym equipment important for keeping physically active and the mind healthy too? Would a cinema at the home, screening classics and newer releases, appeal? MACC Care homes offer wonderful facilities and amenities, ideal for socialising, enjoying quieter times and pursuing hobbies and pastimes. Check to see if the home you are visiting ticks the right boxes and be sure to enquire about the activities, events and trips available.

Bedrooms and bathrooms

Be sure to view the type of room that will be available and enquire about the home’s other room options. For privacy and to maintain a resident’s sense of independence, would a single occupancy room with en-suite bathroom facilities be preferable to double occupancy and a shared bathroom?

Check and see that room access is suitable and whether any specialist equipment – such as hearing induction loops and grab rails – is available.

To feel truly at home, can residents bring their own furniture and personal belongings? Photos, ornaments and special mementoes will help make the room feel more homely and alleviate anxieties in the transition process.

Did you know that some MACC Care homes can even accommodate pets? Be sure to ask for details.

Dining – food for thought

Delicious food should still be one of life’s pleasures, so during your visit be sure to enquire about the meal plans available; how often menus are updated; how individual tastes or special dietary or nutrition needs are accommodated.

Ask whether meals are served at set times so that routines can be maintained, or are dining times and arrangements more informal and flexible? Check and see if the home offers opportunities for residents to take part in baking and meal preparation – a great way to maintain independence, skills and interests.

Eating is a social activity, so if possible, during your visit, observe the interactions between residents and residents and staff – better still, join in with a morning coffee or an afternoon tea!


For emotional wellbeing, keeping residents connected with the outside world and maintaining close relationships is all-important, so find out about visiting arrangements at the home. Can relatives and visitors drop in at any time and join in with activities and events, or join a loved one to enjoy a meal together?

At MACC Care homes, relatives and friends are part of the ‘family’ too and a vital part of our communities.

Location and community

Think carefully about the home’s location. Is it easy for relatives and friends to visit to keep in close contact and join in with events and activities at the home? Would it be useful to have shops, cafes, a park or other local amenities within walking distance? Is public transport important? And for relatives and visitors with further to travel, is a guest suite or nearby overnight accommodation available?

Many MACC Care homes are integral to local community life. Is this type of involvement and engagement important to you or your loved one?

CQC Scoring

All care homes are regulated by the CQC (Care Quality Commission) – the independent regulator of health and social care in England. The CQC reports on care home performance with regular inspections, details of which are available in public reports.

In addition to local inspections by the Fire Service and the Environmental Health Department, it is a statutory requirement for the owner or senior management of every home to inspect it on a monthly basis. The results of these inspections are made available to the Care Quality Commission on request.

CQC reports provide a useful guide for assessing the quality of care but should not be used in isolation. It may be worth considering that a home judged to ‘require improvements’ in certain areas is likely working very hard to lift its standards; a change of manager or leadership strategy can make a tangible difference to quality standards, well before a re-inspection date.

If this is the case when you are considering a home, be sure to ask the home’s manager what measures are in place to drive improvements.

Care home reviews – made by residents and their relatives – also provide very useful ‘real life’ insights to the quality of care that can be expected.

MACC Care is proud of the scores attained across its family of homes. Please refer to the ‘Need to Know’ area within each individual home’s web page for details.

Care costs and contracts

Costs will vary from home to home and according to the type and level of care that is required. We would suggest speaking to the manager at the care home of your choice for specific details.

Funding may be available from your local authority, or in some cases the NHS, depending on the healthcare needs and financial situation of the resident. Full information is available on the Age UK website:

MACC Care’s leaflet ‘Paying for Residential, Nursing and Dementia Care – Frequently Asked Questions’ may also be of use.

Care contracts should clearly indicate the nature of the care to be delivered and what arrangements will be in place should care needs change. Transparency is essential – you need to know exactly what is and isn’t covered within the contract, together with details of any extra-cost items.