As much as possible, evaluating care providers should be a family process.

How do you know when you’ve found the right care provider? What are the best methods for evaluating care providers?

If you’re searching for occasional care at home support (otherwise known as domiciliary care), or looking for a live-in carer who will be with you 24/7, this is a major decision. It’s just as significant when you’re evaluating residential and nursing care homes.

Whether you’re seeking care at home, or a care home place, the process for evaluating care providers involves many of the same considerations: You’ll want to review the official ratings. You’ll do your best to act on the preferences of the person requiring care. And you should always trust your instinct.

But first things first. A care needs assessment should always be undertaken before you decide on a care package, and particularly before you enter into a contract. If you don’t complete a needs assessment, you could miss out on local authority funding. The care needs assessment evaluates your daily support requirements. It’s designed to reveal whether your needs can be accommodated at home or if you would be better served in a residential care home. To arrange a care needs assessment, you should contact your local authority in England, or your local authority in Scotland.


Evaluating care providers in England

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates care providers in England. You may have heard of the CQC five standards for evaluating care providers. The CQC five standards are based on five questions that help the CQC evaluate care providers. (See note 1.) The QC asks:

  • Is the care provider safe? You should be protected from abuse and avoidable harm.
  • Is the care provider effective? Your care, treatment and support should provide a good quality of life.
  • Is the care provider caring? Compassion, dignity and support should be at the heart of your care.
  • Is the care provider responsive to people’s needs? Responsive services will help you meet your needs.
  • Is the care provider well-led? Organisational leadership will create a culture that enables high-quality care.

To find CQC ratings for care homes in your area, you can visit the CQC website for ratings and reports. The CQC standards provide the foundational information for any CQC report on a care provider in England.


Evaluating care providers in Scotland

In Scotland, the Care Inspectorate grades care providers based on quality themes. The Care Inspectorate conducts unannounced visits to evaluate care service quality. You can browse the Care Inspectorate reports on care providers here.

In 2016, the Care Inspectorate announced that a sample of 150 care homes serving older people would also be evaluated for dementia service quality. (See note 2.)


Listening to the person who requires care

Have you asked the person who requires care (be it yourself, a friend or a relative) what they would like in a care provider? You can’t overestimate the value of listening to the voice of the care seeker. Nor should you assume you already know their preferences. Be guided by their priorities as much as possible. Listen to their concerns.

Learn how to broach the subject of care, from starting discussions early on, to using the voice of a trusted third party (such as a doctor or friend).


Trusting your instinct to evaluate care providers

Care home and care at home ratings are important, of course, as is the feedback of friends and family who may have employed similar care services within your preferred area. But nothing can replace your own instincts. Trust your instincts when you’re visiting a care home or interviewing a care provider. Use your senses. Are there unpleasant smells? Does the care provider make good eye contact? What sort of activities have been organised for that week? Take these cues on board to help shape your overall decision-making process.

If you are ready to look for care, Care Sourcer offers a free searchable directory of local care agencies. If you need care urgently, we also have a team of care experts who are available by telephone to help guide you through the process.

This was last updated 13 June 2018. 



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