Choosing an aged care home can be difficult, particularly if you find yourself in a hurry to find somewhere suitable for yourself or a loved one.
Here is a helpful guide that shares some of the key things to look out for when you are researching aged care facilities for yourself or a loved one.
How to choose a residential aged care facility
When you do your research in person and online, take note of the following:
Your first impression
An aged care home should be a nice place to visit and live in.
Don’t discount your first impressions of any aged care facility. If you walk in and feel that the place is welcoming, friendly, and comfortable, it probably is. A facility that comes across as very quiet and a bit gloomy may do so because the staff are overworked. This can flow on to make everyone feel stressed.
If you’re looking at aged care homes for a loved one, first impressions are important for both of you. No matter how much you like the place, if your loved one’s first impression is negative, you will struggle to get them to make the transition.
Have a look around and chat with staff members and residents, and you will quickly get a feel for whether it is the right place.
The atmosphere at the facility
Atmosphere goes hand in hand with first impressions.
This matters because the best aged care facilities do so much more than care for the health of their residents. There is a lot to be said for a well-defined and positive culture, which is the backbone of a quality aged care facility.
When you visit, think about the following:
- Are residents and staff chatty and open with each other?
- Do people appear to be socialising?
- Do people seem content?
- Is the atmosphere lively and joyful?
- Do things seem to be under control?
- Is the place clean and tidy?
- Is the paint scheme welcoming and are there nice pictures on the walls?
- What are the outdoor areas like?
Resident engagement and activities
Modern residential aged care homes should not be dull places.
The best facilities create positive atmospheres by offering regular activities and events to keep residents engaged.
There are countless activities seniors can enjoy for their mental health and social engagement. Check to see if the aged care facility you’re investigating includes any of the following:
- Music therapy
- Art therapy
- Games nights
- Cooking activities
- Family days
- Social events
- Visits from local school children
Ask the facility to show you what they have scheduled in the next few months in terms of entertainment and activities.
Nursing staff availability
If you or your loved one is moving into a nursing home or residential aged care, it is because regular support is required in order to live comfortably.
Make sure any aged care home you consider has a registered nurse on-site 24/7. Furthermore, ask about how regularly nurses check in on each resident. There should be a clear schedule that nurses stick to.
If you get the chance, try to have a chat with any nurses who are on-site and not too busy. A short chat will quickly give you a feeling for the general quality of the staff.
Nurses are available for regular checks and emergencies but visits with other health practitioners are also important for anyone in residential aged care.
Ask the facility how often health care practitioners visit the site and what duties they carry out. Doctors will be first on the list, but you should also expect visits from allied health professionals like physiotherapists, podiatrists, eye specialists, nutritionists and occupational therapists. Ideally, there will be a set schedule of regular visits, to save you or your loved one from travelling to appointments.
Some aged care facilities have a doctor’s office on site these days, so have a discussion about what’s available.
Dining options and quality
Nutrition is always important, but particularly so for seniors. Ask to look at the menu and see whether meals are nutritious and designed to accommodate different dietary and digestive needs.
A quality aged care home in Australia will employ chefs who specialise in creating meals for the elderly. Many also cater to different nationalities and offer the flavours of ‘home’, wherever that may be.
The food at aged care centres shouldn’t be bland and repetitive. There will be special meals to look forward to and plenty of options. Some facilities even have a cafe where guests are welcome to buy tea, coffee and treats.
Accessibility for family
It’s a common fear; that you, or your parent/loved one will be stuck in a centre that makes visiting difficult.
COVID-permitting, it should be easy for family and friends to drop by. A guest lounge and visitor parking are something to check for when you’re researching aged care homes. Ask about visiting hours and visitor limits so you can arrange a schedule for guests.
It may seem obvious, but try to keep proximity in mind. You’ll have to find the right balance between the ideal place and one that is easy for people to get to. If you’re taking responsibility for moving an elderly parent, try to keep them within their geographic comfort zone if you can. Otherwise you could move them to a residential aged care facility that’s within a short drive from your place.
If you or a loved one would like to discuss available services and how they might meet your needs, the Aged Care Decisions team can help. Call us on 1300 775 870 or reach out through our online form.
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Resident and family reviews
Almost every service provider has online reviews these days. Some quick online research will give you a broad indication of people’s feelings towards the home you are looking into. An overwhelming amount of negative reviews is clearly a bad sign but have a look at what they say and whether or not management has responded.
It is also worth googling the aged care facilities on your shortlist and selecting News from the icon bar. If a home has been in the news a lot, that’s a red flag. Unless they are there for winning awards, you will want to shy away from any aged care home that pops up too often on a news search.
Visit the largest aged care reviews website at https://agedcarereviews.com.au/ to find helpful reviews of facilities near you.
Technology & safety
Quality aged care facilities invest in technology and innovation to ensure comfort and safety.
Examples can be alarm systems that will notify staff if a resident has a fall. There should also be plenty of hand rails, in showers and along halls/stairways.
Digital record-keeping is now commonplace in many facilities. This technology is used to track medication, share information with family members and minimise paperwork for staff. When you’re researching aged care facilities, ask how technology plays a role in improving quality of life and staff efficiency.
This is essential in current times. Make sure to ask the facility about their COVID-19 plan. Seniors are particularly susceptible to COVID, and you need to know that you or your loved one are as safe as possible.
You should expect to see signs up with handwashing procedures and hand sanitiser readily available. As with the other points here, talk to the staff about COVID and ask about their hygiene protocols.
It may also pay to do a little online research into any facility you are considering to see their track record during the pandemic. However, keep in mind that COVID has been challenging to all industries. If a facility you are considering has had some trouble with COVID but has now overcome it, it may still be worth considering if they tick all the other boxes.
What makes the best aged care home?
The best way to find the right aged care home for your loved one is to do your research, visit the facility and ask questions. You can speak to the residents or their families if they are there to get some feedback about what day to day life is like.
The best aged care home will be well-reviewed, feel comfortable, and be able to provide you with answers to all your questions during your initial enquiries. If your loved one feels nervous, consider visiting a few times so the place becomes more familiar. Let them ask questions and engage with the staff so they can start to picture themselves fitting in.
Staying in aged care should be a positive experience. The purpose is to ensure you or your loved one have round-the-clock care in a safe environment, while still being able to make independent decisions and feel comfortable.
Aged Care Decisions provides assistance to families at every stage of the aged care or home care journey. We work with over 1200 facilities and assist over 6000 families every month, 100% free of charge.
If you need help to find aged care, do not hesitate to give us a call on 1300 775 870 or fill out this form and we will get in touch with you.