12 Years an Advocate: Reflections of an Aged Care Home expert

I started helping families in Aged Care in 2005 in response to a need in the community for caring, accurate and independent advice on options available in aged care in Victoria

My family is the most important thing to me and I know I’m not alone.  I have helped thousands of families find the best Aged Care Home for their loved one, mostly for the elderly but also for a few younger people who needed 24 hour care.

Even though most of my clients are elderly (my oldest client was 100) I hear so many times, “I don’t want to go into a home, its full of old people”. Most people don’t want to be confronted with illness or ageing daily. There is still a stigma attached to aged care homes that it is “gods waiting room”.

It is such a traumatic time for people regardless of age and if they can’t relate to at least one or two other residents, it makes it all that more frightening. It is really important to me that I help my clients find not only the right location, for the right price and the right care but also somewhere they can call home, where they feel they have friends, a community around them so they can enjoy their final years.

Most of my clients have some form of dementia. One client I remember was told to look for a dementia specific facility for her mother. She came to me after she had looked at several dementia specific homes and was extremely distressed to have to put her mother into that sort of environment. She told me that her mother wasn’t anything like the residents she had seen and surely there was an alternative.

After meeting her mother, I realised that she was just forgetful and got a bit confused about where she was and where she was going. She didn’t need specific dementia care she just needed a place that was secure so she couldn’t accidently just wander out the front door and get lost. Her daughter was so relieved that she had been looking at the wrong type of care for her mother.

In the 12 plus years I have been working in Aged Care I have seen an evolution in the way Aged Care Homes care for our elderly. When I first started it was common to have residents living in 3-4 bed rooms. Many homes now offer single rooms and ensuite bathrooms with double rooms reserved for couples so they can remain together.

It wasn’t that long ago that we had homes that were either low care or high care and if you were a couple one needing high care and one needing low care it was hard to get each a room in the same property let alone sharing the same room. This also meant that if the person entered as low care and their care needs increased they had to find another home.

Thankfully we now have ageing in place, where the care comes to you, you don’t have to move homes as your care increases. The variety of aged care homes is exciting. Some set up “houses” each with their own kitchen and carers to make it as close as possible to home life. A recent newly built home has double beds in every room, they even allowed my married clients to sleep in the same bed, unheard of anywhere else.

The way aged care homes care for their residents is changing too. No longer do they “do everything for residents”. Their role is to enable residents to remain as independent and engaged as possible, stepping in to assist with activities instead of doing it for them. Many homes now have resident laundries so they can continue to wash their clothes if they are able to and choose to. They have kitchens where residents can come out of their rooms and make themselves breakfast just like they did every day in their own home.

People want to feel like they still have a purpose in life, still do what they used to do for as long as they can. Another great example of this is in a memory support unit (new term for dementia specific unit) I visited recently. It was a hive of activity after breakfast as a few of the residents collected the breakfast dishes and took them to the sink and washed them ready for the next meal.

New dementia villages are starting to crop up that take this concept one step further and create communities where the residents can go shopping, to work, to the movies, over to friends’ places all in the safety of a purpose built aged care village.

People just want a purpose and it’s wonderful to see providers rising to this challenge and giving purpose back to those who have spent several years being told they can’t do things anymore.

There are now so many options available for the elderly as they age. Everyone is an individual. I am yet to find two clients who are looking for the same thing. Each person has their own expectations and their own care needs.

An Aged Care Home where one person is extremely happy may not be the same for the next person. With increased choice comes increased confusion. How do you find the best care solution for your family member? What are the options?

Aged care Homes are not the same, they offer many and varied services and features. They all charge different fees and daily fees are calculated according to a person’s assets and income so it’s hard to work out what you will be paying monthly prior to signing on the dotted line. It can be very daunting to go it alone.

I take great pleasure in helping people work it all out, then showing them an Aged Care Home that will suit them, a place they can call home.


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