With increasing demand, there has been an increase in the number of aged care homes in Australia.
There has been an exponential increase in Australia’s population over the last 20 years. Since 2008, Australia’s population has increased by 375,000 people per year, a 1.6% p.a growth rate (source).
With a growing population comes a growing ageing population. According to a study by IBISWorld, the ageing population (aged 70 and older) is forecasted to increase by 2.6% from 2020-2021, reaching over 3 million people.
Therefore, there has been an increase in demand for aged care homes. However, the idea of putting your loved ones or yourself into an aged care home can be a challenging and stigmatised one.
Oftentimes, people tend to push off the idea of an aged care home unless they are faced with no other options. This could be in an event where a loved one is no longer able to care for themselves or when you don’t have anyone else to depend on to care for you.
In times like these, you will be under the time crunch to find one aged care home. You will be forced to do your research into each home. As such, having a good understanding of what to look out for in an aged care home will help significantly in your research. With the right information and questions, you will be able to narrow down your choices quickly, and you won’t have to worry about making the wrong decision.
A few factors that you should consider or look out for are:
- Facilities and equipment
- Culture of the aged care organisation
- Aged care staff
- Safety and security
- Your budget
- The credibility of the home
The location of the aged care home is key for a few reasons.
If you are looking for homes for your loved ones, it is crucial that the home is not too far away from you so that you will be able to visit them more frequently. As mentioned in the Aged Care Royal Commission interim report, “Visits from family and friends are critical to the physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing of people living in residential aged care and also their friends and families. Visits are also an integral part of health, enablement and happiness”.
In the situation where you don’t live near an aged care home, you should pick one that is near another family member or a close from who will be there to support your loved one on your behalf.
While it may seem like a 30min drive is feasible, it can still be deemed as a hassle to visit after a long day at work. Hence I strongly suggest that you take the location of the aged care home into consideration.
Likewise, if you are the one that needs the care, it is best for you to be as close to your family as possible. Finding a location that is convenient and accessible is crucial to your own wellbeing as well.
Moreover, having a location that is near facilities such as the church, swimming complex, parks or shops can be beneficial for regular outings. This is so that you or your loved ones will not feel stuck and bored in the aged care home.
Facilities and equipment
Another thing to look out for when going on tours at aged care homes is their facilities and equipment. Having a home that provides decent amenities such as large common areas, smart TVs, and exercise rooms can make a big difference in the quality of living there.
Rooms should feel comfortable and well equipped with furnishings such as good quality mattresses, bed linens and blankets. Since you or your loved ones will be spending the most time in the rooms, it is important that you feel comfortable.
A good aged care home should also be well-equipped with tools and machinery to support ageing. Some of these must-have tools include lifters, electric beds, oxygen support tanks and trained staff to handle these types of equipment.
Culture of aged care organisation
Given that you or your loved ones will be spending the later part of their lives in an aged care home, the culture of care and values of the aged care organisation must match what you are looking for.
The values of an aged care organisation usually translate into how they care for their residents. It is essential to do some online research and check out these values, usually found on their websites. Some of the values you should look out for include:
The more you empathise and fit in with an aged care home’s culture, the more you will enjoy your time there. So, be sure to do thorough research and ask the staff about their core values when you take a tour.
Aged care staff
The quality and quantity of aged care staff are important. Staff in aged care homes are the ones who interact the most with the residents. They are going to be the ones to ensure that you or your loved ones are taken care of and safe. Their attitude and professionalism towards their job are of utmost importance.
Therefore it is essential to understand how the staff treats and supports their residents. To do so, you should look at the interaction between staff and residents during the tour of the aged care home.
While most tours do not give you a prolonged time to observe staff interaction with residents, you should ask them more questions and see how they interact with you. It is best when staff are friendly and go the extra mile to provide you with answers.
Further, it is important for aged care homes to be well equipped with sufficient staff. For instance, aged care organisations should train and assign more staff in dementia units or palliative care.
Make sure that you check with the administration team or management team on the number of staff. You do not want an understaffed aged care home.
Safety and security
One of the most important factors you should consider is the safety and security of the aged care home. With the elderly being one of the most vulnerable groups, it is important that the home you choose does not have any violations or run-in with the government.
You must also make sure that the facility has adequate fire and safety arrangements in place. An example of a safety arrangement is to have a visitor management system in place. A visitor management system, either pen and paper or a cloud-based one, helps ensure that every visitor entering and leaving the facility is accounted for.
This helps ensure that security in the aged care home is maintained. Further, with COVID-19 still lurking around, the contact details collected using the visitor management system can aid in contact tracing if needed.
Choose what you can comfortably afford.
If you are unsure how much you can and should pay for care, you can complete a means and assets test. The aged care financial hardship assistance may provide you with some monetary subsidies should you need more help to pay for your aged care costs.
However, you need to keep in mind that expensive aged care homes do not equate to better care or better staff members. This just means that their facilities are more luxurious and the location might be of a higher-end.
The credibility of the home
Lastly, speak to friends or family who have knowledge about quality aged care homes. While it is easy to find people’s testimonials on aged care organisations’ websites, these testimonials might be skewed.
By collecting feedback through word of mouth, it can provide you with some comfort and reassurance before making a decision. However, it is also important to note that these ratings and reviews are subjective. After all, what someone likes does not mean that you will like it either.
Recognising that you or your loved ones need to be put into an aged care home is a huge step forward. With more aged care homes available to cater to the increasing ageing population, it is important that we consider the above seven factors before making a decision.
Start your research early! It is never too early to plan for your or your loved ones’ ageing plan.