Choosing an aged care home is a major decision. This article is designed to help you ask the right questions so that you’re happy with your choice. If you still have questions, contact CareAbout and we can help guide you toward an option that best suits your needs.
Choosing an Aged Care Home
If you or a significant other is facing (with understandable trepidation) the prospect of moving into a home, it may be reassuring to know that you’re not alone. There were 231,000 older Australians in permanent residential care in 2014-15 with many families having made the same difficult decisions as you.
Knowing when and how to make the next step towards Aged Care Homes can be overwhelming. Maybe you or your loved one already has Care at Home but daily needs are changing? There comes a time when needs can no longer be met at home from a safety and health perspective. This is a sure sign it is time to explore your options in the world of Aged Care homes.
Take your time
You want to start your research as early as possible. That way you have time to explore all options and get to understand the different services and facilities on offer. If you leave it too late you may be rushed into a decision, one that you may regret. The best place to start is CareAbout. They will explain how the system works, discuss your personal circumstances with you and help you determine the best type of care for your needs. They can then match you with a suitable provider in your area – all for no cost.
Work out what you need
Not all aged care homes are the same. They can offer different services at wildly different fees. You don’t want to paying for something you don’t really need; and you want to make sure that as your needs change, you will have access to the services you require without needing to move facilities. So a good place to start is to think about your needs. Ask yourself:
- What’s important to me and my wellbeing now?
- How are my care needs likely to change in the future?
- What services can I not do without?
- What location should I be looking in – close to family who will visit or the area I’ve always lived in?
Create a checklist
When the time comes to start selecting an aged care home, it is a great idea to create a checklist of questions and required information. Obviously, the checklist may feature items applicable to your particular circumstances, however, here are some questions/information you can use as a starting point.
- Does it appear clean on the first inspection?
- Are the people answering your questions and showing you around giving you respect, listening to you, and providing you with all the time you need to get the information you want?
- What is the daily menu? (Make sure you also see a variety of meals being served to ensure the facility is delivering on what they are promising).
- What assistance can family members provide e.g. can they help with bathing and eating?
- What medical specialists and facilities are on the premises?
- How far away are emergency medical services?
- How many people are on duty during the day – and at night?
- What are the full costs involved (beware of hidden costs)?
- What are the recreational options and facilities?
- Can family members, particularly partners, stay overnight?
- What are the visiting hours and how easy is it to organize visits outside visiting hours?
- How do the staff interact with their residents? Watch closely!
Make sure you understand the fees and charges
One of the biggest complaints received about aged care homes concerns fees, specifically the ‘hidden surprises’. That’s why it is essential that you know up-front exactly what you are paying for. You can find out about the various fee types here<link to costs and fees>, but it’s the additional fees that you need to be most aware of. Some facilities offer the option to pay for a more premium service. Additional Services may include: higher quality meals, greater meal choices, a higher standard of accommodation fixtures and fittings, newspaper delivery, and so on. Some homes may also charge one-off entry or exit fees or other daily fees, so it is important that you ask about all additional fees at the outset.
Different Types of Aged Care Homes
Whether residential, respite, dementia or palliative, the most suitable Aged Care Home is not always easy to understand, and individual needs can change quickly.
Residential Aged Care
There are two types of aged care services provided in residential aged care facilities – residential and respite. While residential care is ongoing and permanent, respite is designed to be literally that – a short-term break for older people and their carers. Respite care might be an option for a loved one if there is a disruption in their usual Care at Home, or perhaps they need to recover from a hospital admission. Respite care can sometimes be a stepping stone to more permanent care.
This is usually in the same facility as residential care but short term, rather than on a permanent basis. Respite care is an option when home care is disrupted, if the carer needs a break, or for recovery after a hospital admission. Respite care can sometimes be a stepping stone to more permanent care.
Many people living with dementia can sustain their life at home with the assistance of in-home carers but there may come a time when more round-the-clock support is needed. For this there are Aged Care homes with a dementia focus. These homes offer carers specially trained in dementia designed to improve the quality of life for sufferers. They also offer specific activities to engage dementia sufferers, with a focus on the person first, and the illness second. Finding a home catering for a specific dementia level can be greatly assisted by speaking with a CareAbout advisor.
Challenging decisions about care are never more so when it involves an illness from which your loved one is not expected to recover. Palliative or ‘end of life’ care is a special form of round-the-clock care administered by those specially trained in the sensitive time that is dignified end-of-life. At a time of intense physical, psychological, social and spiritual need, a good palliative facility will support and uplift at this most challenging moment.
10 questions to ask regarding care and services
All aged care is not the same. Sometimes you get what you pay for, but you can also find yourself in the situation of paying more for less. When investigating aged care homes, here are 10 things to look for or to ask regarding care and services.
- What sort of room do I get for my money? Room options often have different prices. So ask what is included in each room type. If you like the sound of a particular room that isn’t available yet, consider the option of taking another room now and putting yourself on a waiting list for the preferred option.
- Are there rules regarding visitors? Maintaining contact and relations with family and friends is a critical part of all aged care. Make sure that the homes you are investigating have flexibility to accommodate your wishes, whether that be open visiting hours or even overnight stays.
- What is the staff to resident ratio for each shift? You should know how many of each type of staff are provided on each shift. Of particular importance is the ratio overnight and on the weekend?
- Pet-friendly Entering an aged care home does not necessarily mean finding somewhere to re-house a loved pet. Some homes encourage you to bring your own pet or have pet programs where they bring animals to you.
- Cultural, LGBTI and religious preference Does the home have carers who can speak your language and/or a philosophy and carers who understand and support your cultural and religious preferences?
- What sort of activities are available?
A well-run aged care home delivers meaningful activities that support social, mental and physical wellbeing. Find out about activities and make sure they suit your interests.
- What food options are available? Make sure there are a variety of meals and that you have options to choose from. If you have special dietary requirements, make sure they will be met. Ask if the food is prepared on site, delivered ready-to-eat or to be reheated.
- How often is the laundry done? How often are rooms cleaned? How often is rubbish disposed?
You can get a clear indication of how well a home cares for its residents by the frequency of basic services such as cleaning and waste disposal
- Can my own GP visit me? While aged care homes provide medical care, you may prefer to see your own GP or other medical practitioner. Some aged care homes will be more willing to facilitate this than others.
- Will I have ready access to mobility aids and other equipment?
If you have a need for some sort of equipment, you want to make sure you can access it whenever you require it.
Having your say
Entering an aged care home should not mean losing your voice. It should not mean you have to accept the unacceptable. Make sure that the homes you are considering will allow you to have a say in how the home is run. Ask if there is a resident committee that can provide feedback. You should also ask about complaints mechanisms and how disagreements between the home and resident are resolved.
Get the care you need now – and in the future
The main concern for every aged care home should be the care and needs of the individual residents, now and for the future. Unfortunately, not all aged care homes make this their priority. Not all aged care homes are the same. CareAbout can assist you in finding the right aged care home for your needs, in your area, for your budget.
Using an advocate
With our Aged Care Advocacy Service <link>, we can ‘hold your hand’ and personally take you through the whole process, including onsite visits, from research to placement. The perfect solution for families wanting to reduce the stress in navigating the Aged Care system and ensure they’ve made the best decision for their loved one.
While most of CareAbout’s services are free to consumers, the advocacy service does come with a cost. However, this fee is often recouped during CareAbout’s negotiations with the chosen Aged Care Home.
CareAbout Advocates are experienced professionals that work for your family. They understand how moving into an aged care home can be an emotional time for everyone involved. Sometimes what you need is someone who isn’t a family member. A CareAbout advocate can guide you through the maze of aged care and help get the right outcome for your loved one.
The advocacy service is a five-step process that involves:
- Understanding the needs of the care recipient
- Explaining the options in clear, easy-to-understand language
- Touring aged care homes with you
- Helping to negotiate the fees and saving you money
- Assisting in the completion of paperwork.
There can be dozens of small details to consider – everything from dietary needs to visitor protocols – and CareAbout’s 100-point assessment of Aged Care facilities is the ideal tool to focus your efforts. They can also advise on current vacancies in your desired area and the complex payment options available.
It is an involved and bewildering decision – yes – but one that can be greatly helped by speaking with one of our CareAbout Aged Care experts familiar with the types of Aged Care homes available and how each might fit with your circumstances.