The comfort of strangers

Looking for a nursing home? Clifford German examines a scheme to sort the good ones from the bad
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The Independent Online
Choosing a nursing home for an elderly relative, or even for oneself, is a task which millions of adults and children devoutly want to avoid. But perhaps one in four will need to go into a "home", and the proportion is set to rise as people live longer, and families become smaller and more scattered.

When the need arises, there is little information available to make an informed choice. Local authorities are responsible for vetting standards in nursing homes in their area and can provide lists of addresses. But they are not allowed to recommend one home over another, and most people are forced to make a hurried choice based on the views of friends, or even doctors, who rarely have any information on which to compare one nursing home with another.

Yet many established nursing homes failed the quality standards devised by BUPA earlier this year as part of its Carefinder programme, which hopes to create a national register of approved homes. Carefinder rates homes on the basis of comfort, individual choice - especially of food, clothing and activities - nursing standards, personal care planning, staff training and complaints procedures.

The review attempts to identify homes which offer residents an individual style and treatment and an overall quality of life, and avoid an institutional feel. One in three of the 150-plus homes so far visited by BUPA failed to meet the criteria; failures included some of the more expensive homes charging up to pounds 600 a week.

So far Carefinder covers only a fraction of the 6,000 or so nursing homes in the UK, but BUPA expects to have countrywide coverage over the next 12 monthsn

Information on the Carefinder programme is available free to the public (0645-600300). Calls are charged at local rates.

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