What types of care homes are there?

There are primarily two types of care homes. Those which provide mainly personal care (previously called residential homes) and those which also provide nursing care (many care homes may have facilities for both types or resident).

People who can no longer cope with their day to day activities alone in their own home, even with a carer or outside help need the support offered and personnel care of a Care Home including accommodation, personal care (such as help with bathing and dressing) and meals.

People whose infirmity, illness or injury require nursing care on a regular basis, which cannot be provided for them at home by the District Nursing Services, also need a Care Home (these used to be called Nursing Homes). This sort of care, the law says, can only be provided by a Registered Nurse or under the direct supervision of a Registered Nurse.

Nursing care generally requires higher fees than personal care because of this care being assessed, supervised and evaluated by a Registered Nurse, on top of the personal care, accommodation and meals. In England nursing care is “free” and in Scotland both personal and nursing care is “free”.

How is care monitored

Each potential resident undergoes an assessment of their needs and from that a care plan is developed. The Care Plan ensures that:

Your needs are identified by careful assessment, with your own involvement or that of your nominated relative/friend.
The Plan will describe those identified needs and the way in which our staff will meet them.
You or your nominated relative/friend can choose to be involved in the ongoing care planning process.
Care Plans are reviewed periodically and also when your needs change.

At Canterbury Care we firmly believe that you, and if you wish, your family, should play an integral part in the care planning process, we also have a comprehensive quality assurance programme designed to ensure that the needs of residents’ are paramount.

How to choose a care home

Choosing a care home for your self or for someone else is a difficult decision as you are selecting a home that has to meet a persons individual and care needs. Often decisions are made in a hurry when there is a crisis or difficulties have arisen, the best advice is to visit a few homes and ask lots of questions and keep an open mind, good care homes will be happy for you to visit anytime and will not pressure you in anyway.

When to start thinking about care homes

Many people have to make a decision about a care home in a crisis, perhaps after a fall or illness, or the death of a carer. Looking back they often wish they’d had longer to look around. So if you think you or a relative might need a care home in the future, it’s a good idea to do some planning now, so that you’ll know what to do should the need arise.

Where do I start?

To decide which homes to visit, it may be useful to speak to:

Friends and relatives, for their recommendations
your family doctor (GP), your solicitor, pharmacist, bank manager or Citizens Advice Bureau
If the potential resident is in hospital, most hospitals have discharge liaison staff or social workers
your local Social Services department, which should be able to provide a list of registered homes in your area


Choosing care for a relative can be a difficult and emotional decision. The Relatives’ and Residents’ Association can offer advice and support (020 7359 8136)

You may also find it useful to look at inspection reports for individual homes which are produced independently by:

  • The Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care (for care homes in Scotland)
  • The Care Quality Commission (for care homes in England)
  • The Care & Social Services Inspectorate for Wales (for care homes in Wales)

Ask questions

In many ways, choosing a care home is like choosing any other place to live – within a few seconds you know whether it ‘feels right’. Ask yourself an important question – do these people and this home care about what they are doing, remember happy staff usually means a happy home.

Do not be afraid to ask questions and to talk to staff and most importantly resident’s and their families, ask to see copies of the homes independent inspection reports and a document called the “statement of purpose” this document will detail all the things the home can do for you.

If you feel uncomfortable or daunted, take a friend or a professional advisor to visit with you and always ask for evidence to back up assertions.

Questions you may wish to ask:

Does the home feel like a home?
Are the staff welcoming and friendly?
Does the design and style of the home the home make you feel at home?
Does The Atmosphere Feel Right?
Is their privacy and companionship as desired?
Are you encouraged to talk with residents/visiting relatives/staff?
Do the residents seem occupied, interested, and happy?
Is The Location Right for relatives and friends to visit?

Does the home offer the type of bedroom you want?

Single or companion?
An en suite toilet/hand basin?
A nearby toilet/bathroom?
Space to have a chair, table, and television?
The opportunity to bring some of your own possessions?
A telephone or the possibility of having a telephone installed?
An internet connection (fixed or wireless)?
Does the home have suitable facilities and equipment , are there?
appropriate hoists and lifting aids?
walking aids?
special mattresses?
pressure relieving equipment (mattresses, cushions etc)?
furniture suitable for older people?
a variety of communal areas – lounges, quiet rooms, dining room’s, hairdressing salon, outside sitting areas?
a number of bathrooms with showers or specialist baths?
lift(s) to any upper floors?
easy access for people in wheelchairs?
handrails and grab-rails?
gardens and outlooks from the lounges and bedrooms?
safe garden and walking areas?
Are the staff?
Involved with and communicating with residents?
In the lounges with residents?
showing respect to residents and are they able to demonstrate a knowledge of the residents?
Does the manager give you confidence and are they approachable?
Does the manager take the time to show you around and answer your questions?
Has the manager and her team got the experience to look after you or your relative?
Does the manager hold regular individual meetings with relatives?
Does the manager know her staff and residents?
Is the manager involved in assessment and care planning, including review?

Care plans

Are residents properly and comprehensively assessed?
Are care plans written in plain and jargon-free language?
Are residents and families involved in assessment and review?
Is the home clean and odour free?
Are the staff well presented, attentive and courteous?
Are the menu’s, diets and food presentation to your liking?
Are you able to get the diet/ choices you want? (medical/ religious/ cultural)
Are the menu’s nutritionally assessed and supervised by a professionally qualified nutritionist?
Were you offered some food to sample, if so was it acceptable?
What are the arrangements id a resident wants something special to eat?
Do residents have regular snacks and drinks between meals?
Are there facilities for visitors to get a drink or a snack?
Is there a regular activities programme?
Do the activities include group and individual activities?
Are the social/ activity needs of each resident individually assessed?
Are there opportunities for activities outside the home?
Is there an efficient resident laundry service?
Do residents clothes look well cared for (ironed, clean etc)?
Is bed linen clean and ironed?
Are there arrangements for dry-cleaning?
Are suitable pets welcome and if so how are residents protected who do not like them (eg cats)?
Does the home have written down policies and procedures such as:
A charter of residents rights?
A philosophy of care?
A detailed manual of policies and procedures that you can view?
A quality assurance system that you can view and be involved in? (ask to see copies of internal audits)
A residents group?
A relatives group?
A brochure that accurately reflects the home?
A clear statement as to what is included in the fee and what items are extras?
A contract between the home and the resident?

Do not be afraid to ask questions – bring a list if that helps!

What’s the first step?

If you’ll be paying all the care home’s fees, you can contact homes directly yourself. Once you have found a home you like, the home will make an assessment of your needs, so that they can be sure they can offer you the right kind of care.

If you will be asking the local authority to help with all or part of the fees, you should speak first to your GP and your local Social Services department. They will carry out an assessment of your needs, and produce a report called a care plan that outlines the care, including any nursing care, they think you need.

Can I choose the home I want?

Many people think that care homes in the independent sector are only for the wealthy. You may be surprised to know that the majority of care homes in the UK are owned by the independent sector, and that 70 per cent of residents have their fees paid partly or wholly by their local authority.

If you are paying all the fees yourself, you can choose whichever home you find suitable for your needs in your price range.

If your local authority is assisting with funding, it doesn’t mean you have to choose one of their homes. You can request any home that accepts residents funded by the local authority. However, the local authority will want to be sure that the home is suitable for your needs and doesn’t cost more than it would usually pay for that type of care. If you want a more expensive home than the authority is willing to pay for, you are allowed to ‘top up’ their contribution from another source.

Paying for Care – where can I get more advice?

Paying for care is a complex subject, and everyone’s situation is different. You should seek advice about your own case. Among the organisations offering specialist advice are:

charities such as Age UK (0800 169 6565) and Counsel and Care (0845 300 7585)
your local Social Services department
the Benefits Agency (0800 88 22 00)
the Nursing Homes Fees Agency (0800 99 88 33)
independent financial advisers (ring 0117 971 1177 for the names of local IFA’s)
citizens advice bureau
insurers who specialist in care fees planning

Insurance policies to pay for care

Immediate care insurance may be suitable if you currently considering moving into a care home. It involves paying a single large sum at the time you decide you need care. The cost is based on how long the insurer thinks you’ll need care for, and the level of care you need. While the cost can seem a large amount, it should provide a fixed payment for as long as you need care, and can protect the rest of your assets.

The payments are tax-free if they are generally made directly to a care home and are portable if you decide to move to a different home.

Long-term care insurance, where you pay premiums over a lengthy period before you actually need care, is no longer widely available. If you have already taken out one of these policies it should still be honoured. All policies are slightly different. We suggest you speak to an independent financial adviser who specialises in care fees planning. Among the questions to ask are:

What are the benefits and for how long will I receive them?
What is the maximum amount the insurer will pay out per month?
Should I take out capital protection so that the balance of any lump sum is returned to my estate?
Are the benefits paid to me so that I can arrange my own care, or paid direct to the care home?
Are the benefits protected against inflation?

Quality Care

We care for people as individuals and seek to ensure that our residents live fullfilling and dignified lives.Learn more

Care Centres

Our care homes are situated in convenient locations in England and Scotland. You can find a list of our care homeshere.