Is it time to consider a care home?

Time to consider a care home. David Tanner with a resident.

Is it time to consider a care home?

One of the questions we often get asked is when is the right time to consider a care home for a loved one.  We understand that it’s often a very difficult decision to make with lots of mixed emotions.

For some families the decision to move a loved one to a care home is a clear-cut decision due to a crisis situation.  An elderly parent may have a fall or suffered an illness which leads to a hospital stay and it is clear they will not be able to return to their own home.  Or their partner or primary carer passes away or becomes unable to look after them and therefore a care home is required.

However, for many people the situation is not always so clear-cut. If an elderly person is living independently in their own home, changes to their well-being and abilities can be gradual. In this situation, it can be incredibly difficult to decide when to consider a move into a care home. So when is the right time to consider a move to a care home?  Here are a few signs to look out for.

  1. Nutrition – Keep a close eye on your elderly relative’s eating patterns – do you find meals untouched or food stocks not going down as would be expected? A report by the Patients’ Association estimated that three million people in the UK are either malnourished or at risk of malnourishment. Those aged over 65 and living alone were the highest risk group.
  2. Medication – Elderly people often have chronic conditions and rely on medication. This will be vital for their well-being and is also a clear sign for concerned relatives – keep a close eye on their medication, remind them to take it and try to find ways of helping them to remember. But if medication is consistently missed, this is a sign more support is needed.
  3. Confusion – Signs of disorientation and confusion need to be closely monitored because of the risks to personal safety, limiting their ability to stay safely in their own home. Typical issues are the elderly person going out at unexpected times, perhaps late in the evening.  Another sign is disorientated behaviour, for example, a relative placed her washing in the oven and put a plastic kettle on the gas hob for heating. You may find that disorientation is worse at certain times of the day, often in the evening. For example, relatives often describe getting a flurry of anxious phone calls during the evening, but the following morning, the elderly person may be very lucid and capable.
  4. Mental Health – It might be time to consider a care home if the person you’re supporting is becoming anxious or depressed. We would encourage you to get the support of the local GP for an assessment.  Often elderly relatives start to show signs of loneliness and isolation and this could be the time a care home might be considered. Age UK have found that there are 1.4m chronically lonely older people in England. 
  5. Mobility – Obviously if the person in questions is regularly falling or tripping over or if they suffer an injury and they are unable to move around freely, it might be time to consider a care home, even for a short time until they recover. If you notice a significant deterioration in their physical health perhaps caused by an illness or a fall, a care home may be required.


Of course, considering a move to a care home involves complex emotions, relationships and difficult questions. We would encourage you to start to think about your options and allow plenty of time, so that you are not having to make difficult decisions in rushed circumstances.  You might also find our  blog helpful, with our top ten tips about moving into a care home, when the time comes. If you have any questions or are unsure about moving your loved one into a care home, then please get in touch.