The recent BBC drama 'Care' highlighted the need for support and advice when choosing a care home for someone you love, especially if they’re about to be discharged from hospital.

There are people who can help you navigate the system – without costing you a penny.

Pat Ellenger, Adviser for CHS Healthcare, explains:

It’s an all too familiar scenario: you go to visit a loved one in hospital and you’re suddenly told they are ready for discharge - now! You feel totally unprepared, but it’s clear from hospital staff that they want your relative to be discharged as soon as possible, because they need the bed.

You have so many questions you need answered before making any important decisions, for example:

•   Are they going home?
•   Do they now need 24-hour care?
•   Should you look at Nursing or Residential Care Homes?
•   What about Live in Care?
•   Carers dropping by? How many and how frequently?
•   How much will all this cost?

Or perhaps you’re still caring for a loved one at home and overwhelming exhaustion has kicked in: The washing machine is constantly on, you are unable to get a good night’s sleep and are finding it harder and harder to meet their needs, physically and psychologically.

I’ve been helping families in this position for five years, as an adviser for a company called CHS Healthcare. The company was set-up in 1995 by GP, Dr Richard Newland. He saw the problem clearly through his daily work: families came into his surgery to ask for advice on finding care because they didn’t know where else to turn.

Now, of course, there is so much information widely available on the internet. Yet many families tell us all this information is not necessarily helpful and can be quite overwhelming. What does a glossy brochure or a website really tell you? What do care home ratings mean and what should you look out for?

Helping families choose care is my job. Advisers like me know the homes, not from brochures but because we regularly visit them. If families would like us to accompany them on care home viewings, we are able to do this and ask questions which might otherwise be missed. We know about care agencies too because we speak to them every week: we know about the services they offer and the capacity they have.

And we will never ask a family or client to pay us. Our service is always free to our clients.
When we have made a successful referral to an agency or care home and everyone is happy, they pay us a referral fee - that's how we work. There is no obligation on anyone's part and if a family want to stop looking half way through the process - or even change their mind at the end, it's not a problem.

The way it works

We start by talking to you: to understand the person who needs to move out of hospital, who requires a change in their current home environment, or who may need more care and support. We talk about their needs but also their preferences, so we can build a clear picture of the care that would be right for them. If they are paying for their own care (self-funding), we will talk about that and make sure we look at options that are viable in the longer term, so no-one needs to move at a later stage. We also consider the wider picture too. If care homes are being considered, we ask where friends and relatives live and if they will be able to visit easily.

Usually, we take all this information, carry out some checks and research, then come back to you with a shortlist of three care homes, if 24-hour care is required. We find it helps to narrow things down a little, so you can really focus on these options, but you still have a choice and different options to compare. We are happy to accompany you on visits and sometimes this is helpful if people don’t have their own transport.

We stay on board until the best solution is reached and we’re always empathic. I have friends and family members requiring daily or 24-hour care. I have a very close friend recently diagnosed with early onset dementia. My colleagues at CHS Healthcare all understand the way you feel. We’ve all been selected because we are able to stand in your shoes now or have stood in them before.

For more information about the service offered by CHS Healthcare visit www.chshealthcare.co.uk