Residential care homes and nursing homes


Care homes offer assistance with personal care needs, whereas nursing homes have registered nurses on the staff to undertake any specific nursing needs. The media gives a poor impression of care homes, but the right care home can make a huge difference to your quality of life. Although that doesn’t make the decision any easier. Every care home is different and making the right choice to meet your particular needs, preferences and personality is the most important thing. There are thousands of care homes in England however it’s important to ensure that the homes you are looking at are qualified to support someone with dementia.

Specialist dementia care

When you’re looking for dementia care it can be hard to differentiate those providers who say they provide care for people with dementia from those who have had specialist training in providing care that is tailored to the particular needs of people with the condition. Although every care provider can tick a box to say they support people with dementia there are a few things to look out for to find those providers that go the extra mile.

Good quality care providers will have an emphasis on person-centred care. Where dementia is concerned, this approach means that the care home will focus on you as an individual, rather than the condition itself. Although it sounds simple, it means that you will be treated as the person you are, not as a person with dementia. Staff should engage in conversation with you and get to know your interests, likes and dislikes, even if your dementia symptoms are at a stage where you cannot communicate your wishes. Staff should also try to accommodate your daily routines. They should also be interested in, and try to learn about, your past and what your life has been like, your childhood, your career, your family etc. Compiling a life story book can help with this.

Ask any care provider if staff have specialist dementia qualifications. The test is available on its website and tests care staff on their knowledge of dementia and how people can be supported in a person-centred way. Care providers and their staff will undertake specific training on aspects of supporting people who receive care and support. dementia training can be one aspect of this and many training organisations offer specific dementia training. A good care provider will undertake specific training in supporting people with dementia and will be able to prove and be proud of that fact. Some care providers have developed their own dementia care training, which is accredited, and are likely to have a specific member of staff to take the lead on caring for people with dementia.

All of these aspects point towards a care provider having a true understanding of how to support you. However, choosing a care provider is a very personal decision. It includes so much more than these pointers. If you find a good home, or provider, that takes the time to understand you, to see you as an individual and provide the very best person-centred support, that you feel comfortable and confident with, then follow your gut instinct. If you have the opportunity, trial periods are a good way to see how you will feel with the service and you can always change your mind or look for another home or provider if it doesn’t work.

Dementia care homes

There are a number of ways a home can be more dementia friendly. The physical appearance of a care home may be an important factor in which home you choose. You might want to consider somewhere that has a homely look, rather than a hotel-style or vice-versa.

It’s important to remember that this is where you will be living, and you need to feel comfortable in the surroundings as it will be your home.

Some newer, purpose-built homes have circular corridors or gardens that the people can explore on their own, with places to stop and sit. Some homes have cabinets outside of each person’s room, containing an individual’s personal items enabling them to recognise their room.

It’s important to consider what activities are provided. Meaningful activity on a daily basis can really help you to engage and have a good quality of life. Some homes have rummage boxes filled with items to look through, some may be period items, or useful for reminiscing.

A good care home will support you to make your own decisions on a daily basis. This may be something as simple as choosing your own clothing for that day or helping to perform day-to-day tasks, like laying the table, folding the washing or gardening. This is person-centred care – these simple approaches to daily living can help you to have control over your life. There should also be group activities that people can choose to be involved in from tea dances to music, exercise and many other things.

A good home will ensure that the carer is involved as much as possible in your care.

For more on identifying a residential care home that specialises in caring for people with dementia, see the dementia checklist on this website.