When is the time to move into an aged care facility?


How can you know when a loved one is ready to move into an aged care facility?

If they seem unable to take care of themselves, require a high level of support at home, or they’re worried about their health and wellbeing, it may be time to consider the options.

This article will discuss the key signs that it might be time for the transition to an aged care facility and how to start the conversation with the family.

When is time to move into an aged care facility?

It’s a great idea to consider aged care options before an emergency at home, or hospital stay, forces rushed decisions.

Key indicators to lead aged care conversations include:

How supported your loved one feels at home

There may come a time when moving your loved one into an aged care facility is the best choice for their health and wellbeing.

Support from family, friends and neighbours may be supplemented by government-funded home care programs such as Home Care Packages or the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP).   Read more about these programs here:

Understanding Home Care Packages and how they work (agedcaredecisions.com.au)

All about CHSP – the Commonwealth Home Support Program (agedcaredecisions.com.au)

When this support isn’t enough to meet their care needs, a move into aged care may be the answer.

Some tasks that your loved one will begin to need more support for at home include:

  • Access to equipment, medication or specialist care
  • General household maintenance and chores
  • Shopping for groceries and cooking meals
  • Social interaction through community activities and outings
  • Everyday tasks such as dressing, showering and going to the toilet

Your loved one will also need more secure and protective care if they have dementia and are prone to wander or unknowingly harm themselves.

What are the physical signs that your loved one is ready to move into aged care?

Most physical signs of aged-care readiness will be related to how concerned you are about your loved one’s health and safety.

If they are unable to move around their own home easily or comfortably or are showing signs of extreme fatigue after performing activities that are not meant to be strenuous, your loved one probably needs specialised care at an aged care facility.

There are also other less obvious physical signs that your loved one is ready to move into aged care, including increased trips and falls and a decrease in personal grooming and household chores.

Trips and falls

Our balance tends to suffer as we grow older, which can cause us to stumble, trip or fall more frequently. The problem is that near misses or falls after a certain age can be extremely devastating and debilitating for your loved one.

Personal grooming

If your loved one is missing showers, has regularly unwashed hair or is consistently wearing soiled or dirty clothes, it could be a sign that they are unable to look after themselves.

Household chores

Similar to personal grooming, if your loved one is starting to live in an increasingly dirty and disorganised house with dishes piled up and regular household chores undone, they may require more help than they are letting on.

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What are the mental and emotional signs of readiness?

Signs that your loved one is ready to move into aged care extend beyond what they can physically do. It is important to take into account their mental and emotional well-being as well. The following are some mental and emotional signs of readiness.

Lapses in memory

This can have serious consequences if your loved one is forgetting to take their medication or, even worse, has forgotten to do things such as turn the stove off. They may also be unable to perform simple tasks that they have previously done with ease their whole lives.

Depression or isolation

If you notice that your loved one is experiencing a decrease in social activity — either in pursuing their normal interests or catching up with friends — it could be a sign they are not coping with performing these activities.


How to start a conversation about aged care facilities

It’s a good idea to start a conversation about aged care facilities as simply wanting to put a plan in place for when your loved one requires more support. You can assure them that making the plan doesn’t mean it will be needed; it is simply about being prepared and having peace of mind for if it becomes inevitable.

It is best to have the conversation with your loved one alone and not in the presence of a large number of family members. Be calm and respectful as you share your honest thoughts and opinions. Be prepared to be open and vulnerable and avoid any negative or accusatory language.

Make sure you give them the opportunity to share how they feel as well so that they know they are still in control. If possible, gently guide them into deciding to move into aged care themselves. It is far better if they feel a part of the decision.

If they are open to the idea, you could organise respite care for your loved one, so they can try it and find out what it is like to be in an aged care facility without making a long-term commitment immediately.


What are the next steps?

One of the best ways to ensure a smooth transition to aged care is to include your loved one in the decision-making process. This can include showing them a shortlist of possible aged care facilities and bringing them on a tour.

This is also a good time to arrange an assessment from the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). The ACAT assessment will help you to find out what level of care your loved one needs.

Once your loved one has decided on an aged care facility and you’ve made an application, you’ll need to inform some key people that your loved one is moving. These people include:

  • Health professionals
  • Government departments and authorities
  • Insurance providers
  • Bank and superannuation
  • Legal representatives
  • Any other people you may inform if you are moving house

Consider your loved one’s financial position and how you will pay for aged care. Keep in mind that whatever financial decisions you make can have an impact on your loved one’s aged care fee structure and the amount of government benefits they receive. You will also need to decide on what to do with the family home after your loved one moves out.

This is also when you and your loved one should start decluttering and minimising personal possessions. Most aged care facilities will only allow your loved one to bring a limited quantity of small, treasured items.

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