What is living in an aged care home really like?

What do you think of when you think about aged care facilities? If you’re like most people, chances are the words summon up visions of stern-faced nurses pacing under buzzing fluorescent lighting and tutting about spilled tea. Thankfully, modern aged care doesn’t have much in common with this dreary vision. The reality of current aged care facilities is far brighter and friendlier than you may realise. So, what is it really like living in an aged care home?

For Susan, the decision to help her father, Stephan, find a place in an aged care home was surprisingly easy. ‘I think unlike a lot of people who struggle with whether or not to broach the aged care home topic with their parents, dad was actually quite keen to get into the aged care home! After mum passed he seemed overwhelmed most of the time and quite lost.’ Susan’s father was also experiencing failing health and a move to a facility that would take care of his physical needs was paramount. ‘Dad had been physical robust for all his life but a series of falls had taken their toll. I am happy he is somewhere safe and so is he!’ She says.

Meanwhile, aged care resident Sandra, has been living in a facility for 5 years. ‘I did kick up a stink when my son said we needed to have “the talk”.’ She recalls. ‘I really hated that sense that I was being ‘parked’ in an oldies home to be forgotten about and ignored. But the truth was I’d never even really been to an aged care home before we started looking at different facilities. I was surprised to discover how comfortable they were and what they offered.’ Sandra quickly took to the social side of life at her chosen home, and found her days full with activities and chats. ‘I do miss my old home in some ways, but a lot less than I thought I would!’ she says.

For another aged care home resident, Colin, the lifestyle offered by his chosen facility does chafe at times. ‘Don’t get me wrong, I love not having a house to take care of. But I’ve always love to cook and I love to tinker and I haven’t found a satisfying way to do those things at the facility I’m in, but at the same time new hobbies and friends have come into my life and I find myself pretty happy day- to-day. My family doesn’t live nearby either, so the contact with people and care staff really makes the days less lonely and I feel safe and accounted for.’

Dealing with the inevitable illnesses, and mortality of much-loved friends is a very real feature of aged care home living. Resident Kerrin says, ‘Being in a home, the proximity to ill health and emergency situations doesn’t get a whole lot easier,’ she says. ‘I have had a few friends pass in my time here and I certainly feel that acutely – maybe more so than if I was at home. I don’t know. But at the same time the support network is here, so we all rally together.’ She says 

And for Susan, the daughter who’s father Stephen went into an aged care home after the death of his wife, the help and support of staff in caring for her father was the biggest win. ‘Some of my friends are caring for elderly parents at home and the burden of all the physical care really seems to take away from the pleasant, quality time they would prefer to be having with their parents’. She says. ‘I feel lucky that Dad and I just chat and play cards, go to the movies or sit together – it’s really how it should be.’