What to look for when choosing an aged care facility
Deciding to move a family member an aged care facility can be very difficult. As well as trying to work out when is the right time and all the emotional hurdles, you also need to deal with the very practical task of deciding which care facility is right for you.
With an increasing number of providers in the market and probably a long checklist of needs you might have this is can be a daunting process, so we have put together a list of things to keep in mind as you undertake this important decision.
What are others saying (positive or negative) about the facility? Ask the home for references, or whether you can speak with families who have loved ones staying there, so you can get a better idea of the day-to-day experience. Accreditation reports can also provide you with useful information.
When it comes to choosing an aged care facility, second only to reputation is its location. You'll want to choose a location which is close enough for family members to visit regularly, but that also allows your loved one to keep some links with their community. Is it nearby other facilities such as a hospital, shopping centre, church, library, etc., to allow some degree of independence if they are capable? Are there opportunities for the residents to be involved within their local community?
Food plays an important and enjoyable part of our lives, no matter how old we are. Check whether the home offers a range of enjoyable and nutritious meals. Does the menu change often to provide variation and interest, and do they accommodate personal preferences and dietary requirements?
We know socialisation is important as we get older, especially as our mobility decreases. Are there opportunities for those living there to interact socially with others in the home? What types of activities are organised, and can people organise their own activities and groups? Are there ways they can join in with other community groups? Do they have access to computers and the internet so they can connect with family and friends through email and social media?
Health, wellbeing and support:
The challenge of maintaining our health and wellbeing becomes more critical as we age. The facility you choose should provide easy access to doctors, dentists and other health professionals. You may want to check what programs exist to support mental health and promote happiness. It's also wise ask about what policies and plans are in place for when needs change and they require higher level care, such as with the onset of dementia.
What does a typical day look like at the home you are considering? Are there set times for meals and bedtime? Are visiting hours set or can residents see loved ones when they like? How much flexibility will your family member have when it comes to their day-to-day living?
The way staff approach their job is very important, especially if they are caring for your loved one. Are they respectful and friendly to residents and their families? Do they appear happy in their job - and is this reflected in low staff turnover? You will want evidence that they are professional yet helpful. Ask for examples of how they deal with difficult situations and everyday challenges. Looking around the centre, do residents seem comfortable around them?
Your overall impressions will tell you a lot about the home. Is it clean and tidy and well-kept? Does it have a neutral or pleasant smell? How are noise levels? Do those living there seem relaxed, happy and engaged with each other?
A final consideration is the cost of the care facility. What is the fee structure? Are lump-sum payments required and how much are they? How much is required upfront to secure a place? All of these answers will determine whether you will need to sell capital assets prior to moving into the home. DailyCare provides a cost summary for all aged care facilities in Australia to help make cost comparisons easy before you decide which care facilities to visit.
What is important to your loved one?
Remember your loved one is moving to an aged care home, not you, so ask what's important to them. While you may not be able to accommodate all their requests, remain respectful and keep them involved in the decision-making process (where possible), as much as you can. If they feel involved, the transition process is likely to be a lot smoother.
Our final word is to trust your instincts. With many important decisions, our intuition speaks volumes, so if something is niggling you, don't ignore it. Chances are, you haven't found the right aged care home- yet.