O'Donnell Kerr Financial Planners
  • 05 February, 2020

10 things to consider when looking at aged care

In October 2018 the government established a Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety. It commenced hearings in January 2019, provided an Interim report in October 2019, and is scheduled to provide its final report in November 2020.

During the last 12 months the media has reported on several very disturbing issues of neglect, understaffing and abuse which has occurred in a number of aged care facilities in Australia. This no doubt has led to a certain amount of apprehension for elderly people and their families who are about to enter residential aged care.

I can understand this feeling and I do sympathise with people in this situation. However, I would like to point out that not all aged care facilities are like those which have grabbed the headlines for the reasons I have outlined.

My mum has been in a residential aged care home for the last 16 months. She entered her home just prior to the announcement of the Royal Commission. Over this period, I can assure you that mum has been well looked after, she has put on weight, and she has developed new friendships in the home - not only with the residents but also the staff. Neither my brother, sister nor myself have witnessed any actions which have caused us concerns.

People have asked me how we decided which home was best for mum. The following are some of the things we considered when we were choosing her aged care.

1.Affordability – what could mum afford to pay to enter the home and what would her ongoing fees be? Some homes charge an Extra Service Fee which covers internet usage, streaming services, choice of meals or even wine, extra outings, etc. The list is endless. Remember, if you do choose a home which charges this fee you cannot opt out of the fee in the future, even if mum or dad stop using those extra facilities.

2. Location – how close is the home to the people who will visit on a regular basis? What if someone needs to accompany them to see a doctor or to be taken to hospital?. I live 10 minutes from mum which is handy – she has broken her bottom dentures three times and I am able to get them fixed a lot quicker than the facility staff as I am able to pick them up and take them to the closest dental technician.

3. Accreditation – does the home have the necessary government accreditation? Has there been any issues of non-compliance in the past which has resulted in sanctions? You can ask the home, however you should also visit the My Aged Care website which is a government site that provides details of any past compliance issues.

4. Health and Safety – you can ask the home for the latest Health and Safety report which will outline any incidents that have taken place against residents or even residents against staff.

5. Staff to Patient Ratio – these are not consistent across the different states and depending on the level of care – high or low– the ratio will vary. However, it is worth asking the question. I understand that minimum staff to patient ratio recommendations will be part of the final Royal Commission report in November 2020.

6. Bedroom – are you being shown the actual room that mum or dad will move into or is it a show room? Is the room light and airy? Is it a reasonable size? Are you able to fit a table or at least a comfortable chair for a person to sit and watch television or read? Is the room clean? How often is the room cleaned and do they change the bed linen regularly? Is there a panic alarm within reach for a person lying in bed? And is there another in the bathroom?

7. Furnishing – is the bed new or at least sturdy and damage free? Is there a wardrobe for mum or dad’s clothes? Is there a lockable draw for valuables? Are the curtains covering the windows clean and fresh? Is there air conditioning? Importantly, is there a television? If so, how old is it? Finally, is there a phone connection to the room?

8. Activities – do they have a regular program of outings, activities and exercise? This was very important from my perspective, my mum does have a short attention span and needs regular activities to keep her brain active and to avoid boredom, loneliness and depression

9. Laundry – how often are mum and dad’s clothes washed? Will the home put name tags on the clothes and if so, who covers this cost?

10. Low Care to High Care – last but by no means least if required will mum or dad be able to move to high care in the same home without the need to move them to another facility?

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a start.

I always think that the best way to approach this process is to look at facility and the room from a personal perspective – if I was moving in what would I want and what would make me happy?

Moving someone to a nursing home is not easy for the person moving in or their relatives, so if you have any extra suggestions as to what to look for in a good nursing home to make it easier I would love to hear from you.

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