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How to choose the right aged care facility for your loved one

by Janelle Macdonell

We all want the very best for the people that we love. This is especially true when it comes to choosing an aged care home for our older relatives.

The trouble is, it is often a confusing and emotional process that we can be under-prepared for. We often just don’t know where to start. The task seems too big.

What should you look for? What details are important? How can you tell a good facility from a bad one?

Luckily, we’ve enlisted the help of Open Colleges’ aged care student, Janelle MacDonell, to help answer these important questions!

How to choose an aged care home for your parent

Our loved ones are the most important people in our lives. They have worked hard to provide for us and they deserve the best care that is on offer to them.

As they enter old age, their needs may change. It may not be in their best interests to stay living in their own homes.

Sometimes people need to move to a smaller space that is more manageable and offers a bit of extra care if they need it. In other cases, it may have become unsafe for a person to live at home due to dementia or the risk of falls. And sometimes loved ones just need a higher level of care than you are able to provide.

When this happens, you may be called in to help them decide on which aged care home best suits them. In these times, it’s important to remember that not all aged care facilities are created equal.

I have worked in the aged care industry for some time now, in high care, low care and dementia-specific areas. I understand that choosing a home can be confusing, and sometimes due to a lack of preparation, people get it wrong.

To help you make the right choice, below you’ll find some of my best advice on what to look for, and what questions to ask.

The industry as it now stands

The aged care industry is changing rapidly. Some facilities are ditching the old hospital mentality and are moving more toward more home-like environments, with a focus on individual needs.

Select the right aged care home for your parent

What does you loved one want?

Firstly, you need to find out what your loved one is looking for in their new home. They are the one that will have to live there, so it’s important that they feel happy and comfortable wherever they move to.

Make a list of their wishes and wants and use that to help narrow down the field.

What type of care do they need?

The next thing that you will need to assess, is what level of care they will need.

For high care or complex needs:

  • Make sure that the facility has a registered nurse on duty at all times.
  • Ensure also that the facility offers your loved one access to allied health professionals and services on a regular basis. These professionals include: podiatrist, dietitian, speech pathologist, and many more.

For low care needs:

  • Make sure a registered nurse visits the home every few days to check on the residents. The RN should also advise the care staff on how to best address any changes in care for residents.
  • If your loved one has a diagnosis of dementia, ensure that the home has special areas which are secure and a safe for them to enjoy.

This is how to choose an aged care home for your parent

What does the home look like?

How a care home looks can be an indicator of what it is like to live there, as well what the management and staff of a home are like.

When visiting the facilities make sure they are clean and tidy both inside and out. Also, have a look at the rooms themselves. Do they have a warm, home-like feel?

Just because a facility is modern and new does not always mean it is the best for your loved one. This is to be their new home and they need to feel comfortable and safe in it. They need to be able to have the things they hold dear to them displayed in their own private space.

What is the layout like?

Private vs. shared rooms

Some facilities only offer shared rooms, some have a mix of both shared rooms and single rooms, and some only offer single rooms.

If your loved one is a private person they may prefer to have a single room or apartment so that they can have private time if they wish to.

However, if your loved one likes being in the company of others, then a shared room may be the best option. If they are sharing however, make sure they still have enough space to have private time to themselves.

Where is their room located?

Have a think about where your loved one’s room is located in relation to the home’s other facilities, like the dining room and games room.

If your loved one has trouble walking long distances, they may prefer a room closer to the main areas of the facility. However, this is not always an issue as some residents may use a wheelchair to get around if they wish.

How to select an aged care facility for your loved one

Lifestyle activities

Talk to the lifestyle representative at the aged care home and find out what activities are on offer daily and weekly, both at the facility level and in the local area.

Common activities can include: bus outings, games, social gatherings, bingo, going to the local men’s shed.

If your loved one likes a certain activity, ask if this can be added to the activity list.

Everyone needs stimulation to keep their mind active and reduce boredom. This is particularly important for loved ones who can’t move as freely as they would like to, and those who’s social circles have dwindled.

The right staff

When visiting the facility talk to the staff and observe the way they interact with the residents.

Staff must be professional, friendly, caring, approachable, present well, and be helpful when questions are asked.

Care staff play an important part in your loved one’s everyday life. They are also the main people you will talk to and see when you visit your loved one.

Meanwhile, the facility manager must be approachable as they will be the person you will talk to if you have any concerns with your loved one’s care.

Make sure that your loved one is being taken care of in their aged care home

Dietary needs

If your loved one has special dietary needs, for example if they are: lactose intolerant, vegetarian, have allergies, are diabetic, etc. make sure that the home can cater for them.

Also, make sure that if your loved one does have dietary needs, the care home can offer a variety of meals, not the same ones in rotation. After all, no-one likes boring food!

Spiritual needs

If your loved one is religious, make sure that the aged care home allows them access to religious services and caters for particular religious practices.

Remember to tell staff if your loved one has any religious rituals they perform on a daily or weekly basis, to ensure that they are able to continue their faith rituals.

Location of the facility

Is the facility close to your loved one’s local area?

Many people have friends in their local area they may have grown up with, or have lived in a local area for a very long time. In these cases, moving them out of their area may mean they lose ties they have built over many years with friends and the community.

Access to public transport

If your loved one is able to venture out to the shops or have lunch with friends, they may need access to public transport.

It is preferable that this transport is close to where they live. Check with the care home to see how close public transport is to the facility, and if they offer a daily transport bus to and from the local shops.

Alternatively, you may want to see if there are any local community groups near the facility that run shuttle bus services for elderly people in their area.

Aged care home checklist

Word of mouth

A great way of finding out about facilities is by word of mouth and personal recommendation.

If you know people in the area ask them about their experiences with the facility. Don’t take one person’s word for it, ask as many people as possible if they have had experience with the local facilities. Ask them if they can give you some advice on choosing a home from their own personal experiences.

Your attention to detail can make a big difference

Your loved one deserves the best care available. They deserve a place where they are comfortable, safewelcome, and valued, and where all their care needs are fully taken care of.

The care home that you select must treat your loved one with respect and as an individual. Importantly, staff and carers must also always respect and value your loved one’s opinion regarding their own care.

I hope these ideas help you when choosing a new home for your loved one. I’ll leave you with one final piece of advice: ask as many questions as you can think of. Be thorough. The more you prepare and do your research, the happier your loved one will be in the long run.

Interested in aged care?

Open Colleges offers a number of quality aged care qualifications which will give you the knowledge and skills to make a career out of caring for the older generation. Enrol today and start working towards a new future.

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