Dementia guide

Dementia and care homes

Care homes give people with dementia the chance to live in a home environment with trained staff on hand to look after them day and night. A care home can offer similar kinds of care to what family members provide at home, such as help with washing, dressing and providing meals.

Care homes for older people are divided into those that offer "personal care" and those that offer "nursing care". A care home that offers personal care will ensure residents' basic personal needs – such as meals, bathing, going to the toilet and medication – are taken care of. In some homes, more able residents have greater independence and take care of many of their own needs.

Choosing a dementia care home

In most cases, the first step towards choosing a care home for someone with dementia will be to get an assessment from the local authority social services. This will make clear whether or not they need a place in residential care and what other options might be available.

Social services will be able to provide information about residential care homes and may be able to assist with finding a suitable home.

Even if the person with dementia is unlikely to be eligible for financial help with residential care home fees, it could still be worth involving social services. The information social services can give you, along with the assessment, is likely to help in making vital long-term decisions about care.

You may also want to consider:

  • The location of a care home – this will be more relevant for some people than others. Would the person you're looking after prefer to be near family and friends? Are there shops, leisure or educational facilities in the area? Is the area noisy? Use the NHS directory to find care homes near you.
  • Is the care home you're looking at focused on the individual needs of residents, and will they provide for those needs? Or do they insist residents adapt to a particular routine?
  • What contact with the community does the care home have?
  • What arrangements are there for visitors? Can residents come and go as they please, as far as it is safe to do so? Are staff able to help residents go out? Are outings arranged?
  • What involvement would you have in the care home? How would you communicate with staff? Are there any support groups or regular meetings?
  • If safety and security are issues for the person you care for, what arrangements for supervision can the care home provide?
  • Will the care home meet specific religious, ethnic or cultural needs? Will the correct diet be provided? Will the person's language be spoken? Will there be opportunities to participate in religious activities?

Care home inspection reports

Care homes for adults are regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). If you are considering a particular residential care home, check the most recent inspection report on the CQC website to see how well the care home is doing and if there is anything of concern.

As well as talking to social services, you can talk to your GP, district nurse, palliative care team or consultant to find out what is available in your area. Voluntary organisations such as Independent Age, Age UK or Mind may also be useful.

When considering a care home, you should ask if it is accredited by the NHS end of life Gold Standards Framework, which means the home has specially trained staff and good links with local GPs. Your care may involve the local hospital's palliative care team, the local hospice team, your GP, community nurses and district nurses.

If you are relying on local authority funding, you will not be able to be cared for in a home that costs more than the authority is prepared to pay for, unless you or your family can pay the difference.

Whether you choose to receive care at home, in a care home or in a hospice, you should be assessed for NHS continuing healthcare. Continuing healthcare is professional care given to meet the physical or mental health needs of adults with a disability, injury or illness over an extended period of time.

It means a package of care is arranged and funded by the NHS and is free of charge to the person receiving the care. This is sometimes called fully funded NHS care.

Page last reviewed: 22/06/2015

Next review due: 22/06/2017

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