Choosing a residential care facility

Choosing the right kind of residential care facility to suit the person with dementia’s personality and needs is vital.

It is recommended that you take time to choose the one that’s best for the person’s individual and medical needs, but if the decision for the person with dementia to go in to a care facility has to be made quickly, this is not always possible.

Look around: It’s best to visit at least three facilities so you can compare them, look at what’s different and what they have in common. It might help to take a friend or relative with you to give you another opinion.

Ring ahead: Before you go, ring and make an appointment with the clinical or facility manager. Spend time there: Some facilities invite prospective residents, their families and those who care for them for a meal. This gives you all a good chance to talk to others and get a feel for the place.

Ask questions: It can be hard to remember what you need to ask, so take a checklist of questions with you. Ask how staff will get to know the person with dementia, how they cater to their preferences and needs, and how they will involve you so you can continue to support the person with dementia.

Go again without making an appointment: Once you have made your first visit and the manager has answered all your questions, make a second visit without an appointment to get a ‘feel’ for the facility. You may want to make a number of visits and it’s a good idea to visit at different times of the day and during the weekend. Some days may seem better than others, but remember that first impressions count.

Prioritise: Sometimes you may not be able to get everything you want for the person with dementia, and you may not be able to get into the facility of your choice. In that case, decide what’s most important – for example, you may go for a facility that has smaller rooms but is closer to your home so you can visit easily.

Think about what might be most important for the person with dementia: For example, the ability to walk in a garden area, or a place which feels homelike, or whether it small enough to find their way around – all might be important considerations.

Try not to feel pressured: If the situation is urgent you may find your preferred choice is unavailable and you may feel pressure to take the first bed available. Try to resist that pressure, but remember that while less disruption is better, you can always move the person when a space in your preferred facility comes up.

Trust your gut: Rely on your intuition, commonsense and what feels right for you. Again, your first impressions are usually the right ones.

Go online: Check out the facility’s website, talk to other people about their experiences there if possible, and go online to AgedAdvisor to see what others are saying about the facility.

Standards and inspection

All rest homes and hospitals have to meet the requirements of the Health and Disability Services (Safety) Act 2001. The Act requires residential care facilities to meet the Health and Disability Sector Standards. These standards are compulsory and auditable. You can review the audit results on the Ministry of Health website. 

Patient rights

The Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner (HDC) has information about patient rights and the services you can expect from a residential care facility. Click here to find out more about the HDC Code of Rights.