Needing help finding a suitable aged care facility for your ageing parent?

When the time comes to start looking for an ageing parent, elderly spouse or close friend to move into an aged care facility, knowing where to start, what to look for and what to ask can be daunting. If you have found yourself needing to find a facility as a result of an unplanned deterioration in the person you care for’s health, then you are not alone. With the majority of older people not planning to move into aged care until a sudden change in health.

Regardless of who you are searching for here are 4 simple tips to consider on your search.

Assessments required to enter aged care

Before contacting aged care facilities to arrange a tour, check to see if the person you care for has had a recent Aged Care Assessment completed. As some providers may not agree to book in a facility tour unless you have had an assessment completed by ACAS (Aged Care Assessment Service). This assessment provides a report on any medical conditions and the level of care the person you care for will require.

It’s a free assessment that usually is completed from the person’s home. ACAS/ACAT’s are located around Australia and depending on where you live will determine which assessment team will be assist you.

Referrals for this service can be made through My Aged Care ph: 1800 200 422 (Monday to Friday 8am to 8pm or Saturday 10am to 2pm). You can make the referral yourself or your could ask you General Practitioner/health professional to assist.

For more information visit My Aged Care website.

ACAS teams can complete these assessments from hospital, however usually only in instances where the person needing ‘permanent’ aged care. Rarely will they complete an assessment for someone needing ‘respite care’ from hospital.

Confidence in the Care Delivered

When walking around the facility look around at the care staff’s interaction with residents and each other. Most facility tours are only brief which give you enough time to take a look at the main areas and bedroom. Which often means people have to make a decision based on their first impressions. If you do get the opportunity speak with staff as you walk around, see how they interact with you and if they are friendly or if they take the time to speak with you. If you can ask to speak with the Clinical Manager, whilst this is not always possible as they maybe busy, it’s help give you an idea if the facility can manage specific clinical requirements. This will also make you feel confident that they can manage your family members care and in most instances they shouldn’t mind speaking with you.

If your parent or spouse has a particular medical condition or illness then during a facility tour is a good time to ask about the staffs ability to manage.

If the person you care for has a condition the facility are less familiar then some aged care facilities will arrange education for the staff through the peak bodies, eg. Parkinson’s Australia, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Motor Neuron Disease Association etc.

Whilst having confidence in the care can be difficult to assess after a quick facility tour. Especially if you have no prior knowledge on what to look for or ask, therefore we have put together a Aged Care Home Facility Checklist that you can print off and take with you when completing a tour to help you.

Other key factors to consider that maybe specific to the person you care for’s needs:

  • Culturally appropriate care – ask questions around this if it’s important to your loved one.
  • How involved are relatives and friends encouraged to be?
  • Minimal use of restraint -What activity programs to they have to during the day for residents? Especially those that maybe sundowning? What non-medication therapies do they adopt in their facility?
  • End-of-life care options – how do they support residents and families through this process. Do they engage specialist community palliative care teams?

Understand how flexible and accommodating staff are to support your loved one’s preferences. Whilst this can be difficult to meet all requirements, it’s still good to discuss any key requirements upfront to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Whilst walking around the facility, consider – how does the environment make you feel?

Consider how easy it is to navigate around the facility. If it’s easy enough for you to navigate around that’s a good start, however if you are finding yourself getting lost then chances are so will your parent/spouse. If they are confined to bed then it’s less of a problem about navigating the facility however having nice open spaces, with natural light, gardens or courtyards to sit in will also make living their more comfortable. Friendly staff and the way you are greeted when you walk through the door will give you an idea that staff generally are happy working there. Happy staff often means happy residents, and a aged care provider that has a focus on customer service.

You may not find a facility that ticks all the boxes, however choose the top few criteria that are essential and start short listing (location, look & feel, price, friendliness). Whilst the decision may solely rest on your shoulders, if the person you are looking for is not in a position (ie. due to being too unwell, or limited insight) then have confidence whatever decision you decide is the right choice for what you can find at the time.

If you are planning ahead of time, having these difficult conversations earlier on before a crisis emerges then it certainly does make these decisions a little easier down the track – however we understand this is not always possible.

Compare feedback and reviews from other families or residents

Speak to friends and trusted health professionals to find out about quality aged care providers in the community and learn of any good experiences people you know may have had with a particular facility.

Other than word-of-mouth from friends there is a wave or aged care ratings and peer reviews sights emerging. By reading feedback from people involved with a particular aged home facility can provide comfort and reassurance before committing to a particular place.

One thing to be aware when reading reviews websites, just because you read a review that identifies areas for improvements or a negative experience this does not necessarily mean this is a bad place to live in and that you should not send your loved one there. Aged Care Ratings and Reviews are subjective, however like other industries like the travel industry “TripAdvisor” if you see a number of positive reviews with the odd negative review, overall you will start to see that the majority of people have had a good experience.

When looking at review sites, look for are aged care providers that have taken the time to respond to reviews. On most sites it doesn’t cost anything for the aged care provider to respond and it shows they are interested in people’s experience, committed to making changes and providers wanting to make the process of finding a quality aged care service for consumers gets a big tick in our book!

Some providers will have testimonials on their website which you can read, whilst these are good and from real people it does not take the place of an independent aggregated site where you can compare all facilities.

Care within your price range

Depending on your personal financial situation and after completing a means and assets test from Centrelink will determine the price you will need to pay for your care. There are strong protections in place to make sure that care is affordable for everyone and there are also rules about how much you can be asked to pay for your accommodation. If you do need to pay a Refundable Accommodation Deposit (RAD) then work out how much you have to spend, so you can start looking for facilities within your price range.

The Australian Government sets the maximum fees for care and daily living expenses.

To find out more about aged care cost explained, read our Help Sheet “Aged Care Costs”.

Aged care facilities that are more expensive does not necessarily mean that the quality of care will be better or even that they will necessarily have additional staff, usually this means their facilities have a more of a luxury feel and may even be located where real estate is higher end. It all comes down to personal preference.

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