Whether it is for yourself or a loved one, how do you go about choosing an aged care facility? You want the person living there to be happy and have their physical, psychological and spiritual needs taken care of. It's an important decision. Where do you start?
In some areas there are a number of aged care facilities, sometimes called nursing homes, old folks homes, rest homes, aged care home or old age homes. This means you have a choice, but some may have a long waiting list.
How soon do you or a loved one need to move into care? Are you/they at risk if they remain living in their present circumstances until an ideal vacancy becomes available? These points need to be considered carefully.
It may be necessary to move yourself or a loved one into care that is immediately available (as long as it is of an adequate standard) and later transfer into a facility that ticks more of the boxes.
What are the needs of the person looking to go into care? Does the person have specific needs such as-
A facility where a language other than English is spoken?
What things are most important to you/the person going into care? Do you/they want-
To be near a partner who will continue to live in the family home
To be near family and friends
A single room with ensuite
A wide variety of activities
A downstairs room
To have a pet come to the facility for a visit
A view of gardens, trees, flowers or the hills
Some residents are happier when they can see flowers in a garden out of their bedroom window Courtesy of Pixabay
Help to choose a suitable aged care facility
Read information about the services available at each facility.
Read online reviews.
Talk to people whose opinion you trust about their recommendations. Perhaps you know people who visit family members or friends living in aged care.
Ask the advice of professionals such as doctors, social workers, hospital workers, church pastors and others who visit local aged care facilities.
In some areas there are agencies who help people find suitable aged care. These agencies may be free or may incur a cost so check the details before becoming involved. Also be aware of whether the agency is independent or has a vested interest in one or more of the facilities.
Visit a number of facilities.
Things to observe on a visit If you are assisting someone to move into care take him/her along to look around if this is possible. Sometimes the person will be resistant to making the move into residential care which can be difficult. Other times the person will be impressed or reassured by what they see and be happier about transitioning into care.
On a visit you will see the answers to some of the following questions. You can ask the staff member showing you around about the rest of the questions. If he/she is not willing to answer questions, this could be a warning sign.
How do staff talk to residents? Are residents treated with respect?
Are residents encouraged to maintain as much independence as practical and safe?
Are residents encouraged to get out of bed and be active?
Are residents neatly dressed, shaved and groomed?
Are the buildings and furniture well maintained?
Is the facility clean?
Is there a high standard of safety?
Are meals cooked on site? Can special dietary needs be accommodated?
Is there a range of lifestyle activities and outings provided to keep residents mentally and socially stimulated?
Some people enjoy a friendly game of bingo Courtesy of Pixabay
Are families invited to some functions throughout the year?
Are you made aware of the complaints procedure?
Are emergency evacuation plans displayed?
Do workers generally seem happy with their workplace or is there a high staff turnover?.
Warning signs Some observations made on an initial visit may suggest a facility that is not up to standard. These could include-
Unpleasant stale smells in the hallways and community areas
Unwillingness of staff to answer questions
Being 'fobbed off' when asking questions
A large number of residents in bed throughout the day. Now it could be that all of these residents are either permanently unable to get out of bed or are unwell on the day you visit. You don't want to be too quick to make a judgement but it is worth taking note of whether it appears residents aren't encouraged to get out of bed.
Residents having to wait an unreasonably long time for assistance when they ring the call bell. There may be an unavoidable longer than usual wait time at shift changeover times but the rest of the time residents shouldn't be made to wait too long. Keeping in mind the level of care the residents need, does the staff to resident ratio appear reasonable?.
When visiting an aged care facility it is possible to make a decision you later think better of because certain aspects may not be visible initially. Also, change in ownership of the facility or staffing or leadership changes can make a big difference. All you can do is make the best decision with the information available at the time.
At the end of the day, when making a decision, sometimes it is just the 'vibe' of a facility or your 'gut feeling' that makes you decide a place is right for yourself or a loved one.