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A Beginner's Guide To Retirement Homes And Care Homes

If you are caring for an elderly relative, there may come a time when you have to make a very hard decision. You may have to decide whether it is time for him to her to go into a care home or a nursing home or in some circumstances, a hospice. This may be because you yourself are unwell, or maybe you are just at the end of your tether and are no longer able to cope with the stresses and strains of being a carer. It may also be because the condition that your elderly relative may has become so bad that you are unable to provide the facilities they need at home. Either way, it is a difficult decision to make and you need to be comfortable with the decision you make.

Choosing a care home

Once you have made the decision to move your relative into a care home, you need to begin the research phase where you investigate which home best meets the needs of you and the elderly relative in your care. Finding the right one can take time.

There are various types of retirement home that are designed meet the needs of elderly people in different ways. There are three main categories:

Nursing homes - these are for people who need constant medical care. For example, they are suitable for those who are recovering from stroke or cancer, people who due to old age have various complications that require full time medical care, or those suffering from dementia.

Residential home or care homes (rest home) - these are suitable for those who have not specific medical conditions that require full time medical care, but are unable to live alone any more. They allow the residents more freedom, but provide for all their needs such as food, laundry, entertainment/activities and medical advice. The home may arrange outings for the residents.

Specialist homes - these cater for specific conditions and illnesses such as physical disabilities or advanced dementia.

Hospices - a home that cares for the terminally ill.

Finding the right care home

Finding the right care home can take some time because of the sheer choice of rest homes out there. If your elderly relative has complex care needs it can be even more difficult. In this case it is worth contacting charities and organisations that focus on the condition as they often have lists of care homes and nursing homes that provide the facilities needed. Another starting point could be your local social services department as they will have lists of recommended homes. Here are some suggested starting points:

* friends and relatives who have had dealings with the home you are interested in
* your GP
* the Social Services department, which should be able to provide a list of registered homes in your area
* the Elderly Accommodation Counsel (0207 820 1343) can provide lists for most areas
* the Registered Nursing Home Association (0121 454 2511)


The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) regularly inspects all registered rest homes and nursing homes and writes a report on what they find. These results are worth reading before you make a decision and can be found on the CSCI website.

Visiting rest homes

Most care homes are privately funded and have up to date equipment and facilities to take care of a wide range of needs. On paper, it is difficult to distinguish and it is essential that you visit the home to obtain a feel for the place. If your elderly relative is able, it is a good idea to them them with you so that you will be able to make the decision between you. Choosing a care home is similar to choosing a place to live and you will know within a few moments if it is the right place or not..

Care home fees

If you will be paying the rest home fees yourself (or the person in your care), you can contact the home you are interested in and ask if they have a place. Sometimes you may find that the popular homes have a waiting list. The next step is for the home to make an assessment of your elderly relative's needs so that they can be sure they can offer the right care.

If money is tight, you need to approach your local authority to help with all or part of the fees. The first step here is to speak to your relative's GP or local Social Services Department. They will carry out an assessment of needs of the elderly person in your care, and write a report called a care plan that outlines the care and nursing requirements needed. They will also do a means test to see how much the person concerned can pay.

Whatever you decide, care homes homes can provide a safe and secure environment that will allow your elderly relative to live out his or her last days peacefully and with medical care on hand if needed. From the carers point of view, it provides peace of mind and although a hard decision to take initially, is probably the best decision for both of you in the long run.

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