Choosing a care home can be stressful and confusing. It can be very difficult to find the information you need to help you make important decisions about the future.
The Competition and Markets Authority has produced new guidance to help residents in care homes and their representatives better understand their rights under consumer law.
Knowing these rights and what questions to ask will help you, and anyone assisting you, get the information you need to take the pressure off a stressful situation.
Six areas to look at when choosing a care home
1. Choosing a care home
When you first contact a care home, you should expect to receive key information in a way that is clear and easy to understand. This information should be made available on the care home's website and any information packs that they may provide.
Key information that you should receive:
- whether the care home accepts people who will be paying their own fees and also those whose fees will be paid for by the local authority.
- an overview of the types of care, facilities and activities available.
- a brief description of the staffing arrangements.
- where applicable, the regulator’s latest inspection rating for the home and where to find the most recent inspection report.
- any especially surprising or important terms and conditions that may apply to you, such as where the home requires you to prove that you can pay for your own care for a minimum period of time and how your fees might increase during your stay, if you are paying for your own care
- how much you will pay to stay in the home. This will include an indication of how much the weekly fees will be if you are paying for your care (the exact amount will depend on an assessment of your care needs and the type of room you choose) and any other payments you may have to make upfront, such as deposits
- what services are included in the weekly fees and whether there are any additional fees (for example, for being accompanied by staff to hospital appointments) or optional ‘extras’, such as for hairdressing
There is also other important information that the care home should actively provide to you in sufficient time for you to be able to consider it before you agree to have a care needs assessment, and which should be easily accessible to you from the start of your search – this includes information about any trial period offered, and the circumstances in which you could be asked to leave.
To find out more about what information you should expect to receive, take a closer look at the guidance in full.
2. Terms and conditions
If you’re paying for your own care, there will be a contract between you and the care home. The guidance states how any 'unfair' terms i.e. terms that put you at an unfair disadvantage, will not be valid.
What should you expect from your terms and conditions?
- They should be written simply and clearly, avoiding jargon, so that you can easily understand your rights and responsibilities.
- Terms must be written and agreed with you in an open and fair way.
If you don't understand it, question it.
3. Changes in the care home
There should only be limited situations in which your contract at a care home is able to change.
In the event of any changes, you should usually be given at least 28 days to consider the new terms. This includes where there is an annual review of the fees or where your care needs change significantly.
4. Being asked to leave a care home
The care home should clearly explain, upfront, the reasons why it might need to ask you to leave and set these out in your contract. It should not ask you to leave without first consulting you, anyone assisting you, and other relevant independent professionals. You should be given at least 28 days' written notice to leave the home.
5. Level of service
All of the care home staff must act with reasonable care and skill, providing the service that has been agreed in your contract.
If they don’t, you may be able to claim compensation for breach of contract.
6. What can you do if something goes wrong?
You always have the right to complain about your care or how you’re being treated.
Your care home should:
- Make it easy for you to complain.
- Deal with your complaint quickly and fairly.
- Direct you to people that may be able to support and assist you.
- Staff must never discourage you from making a complaint.
The care home’s procedure for dealing with complaints must be in writing.
The procedure for dealing with complaints must be:
- Easy to find on their website, service guide, and in the care home itself.
- Easy to understand.
- Available in different languages where possible and in formats such as large print, braille and audio.
- Able to advise on how to escalate a complaint.