3. Choosing the right place
First reactions are often a good indication of whether the home will be appropriate. Does it feel like home? Is it busy and cheerful? Do members of staff seem happy? How do they deal with questions? How long have staff worked there? Are certificates displayed that show the training received by staff?
Does the culture of the home give you confidence that the person's sexuality will be respected? Do brochures include pictures of lesbian or gay couples? Are there private areas for visitors to talk to residents? Will you be able to express your relationship without threat and be given the same respect as opposite-sex couples?
If you have lesbian or gay friends, ask them if they are aware of the home you are considering. Has anyone you know been a resident? Do you know of any lesbian or gay members of staff who work at the home? The existence of lesbian and gay members of staff does not guarantee a gay-friendly environment but it might give you some confidence.
If it seems that the sexuality of the person moving into the home may be an issue, you may want to make this evident from the outset. Don't be afraid to ask to see the home's equal opportunities policy - it may provide insight into the attitudes in the home and the responses you might get should you choose to be open about your sexuality. Ask about training: care homes should train staff on working with lesbian and gay people.
Every home should have an anti-discrimination policy and you can ask for evidence that the policy has been put into practice. Ask how the home would handle any hostility or homophobia towards residents or visitors from other residents or visitors.
You can also ask to see a copy of the home's most recent inspection report. The Care Quality Commission (CQC)regulates health and adult social care services in England, whether they're provided by the NHS, local authorities, private companies or voluntary organisations. It provides information on the quality of care services to help people who use those services and their carers to make informed decisions about their care. The CQC has recently published good practice guidelines as to how regulated organisations should work with lesbian and gay clients.
Note that the equivalent regulators of care outside England are the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) in Northern Ireland and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW). See 'Useful organisations' below for details.