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How to Find the Best Aged Care Facility to Suit Your Needs

The decision to move into an aged care facility is rarely an easy one, both for the person moving and the family involved. Nobody likes to give up their family home, and it’s never fun to farewell neighbours. For this reason, the decision to move to an aged care facility can come with a grieving period.

While it may be a tough decision to make, there are ways to simplify the process - such as finding the right facility. Your chosen aged care facility should:

  • Make a good first impression
  • Have a convenient location
  • Come with good online reviews
  • Offer a range of food and dining options
  • Be safe and accessible
  • Offer lifestyle activities
  • Welcome friends and family, and encourage visitors
  • Make arrangements for appointments
  • Be affordable

There are many different types of aged care facilities in Australia, and most are funded and accredited by the Federal Government. Government-funded homes may be run by religious and community groups, private enterprises, or state and local governments. Independent living is also an option, for those who enjoy the comforts of security, companionship, and access to useful services and facilities, but still want to maintain some independence.

How to find what’s right for your loved one

Step 1: Assessment

Before applying for any government-funded aged care facility, you must first have your application approved by a local Aged Care Assessment team (ACAT) (or Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS) if you are in Victoria). You can do this through a referral from your GP, social worker or community nurse, or you can contact ACAT or ACAS directly.

During an ACAT or ACAS assessment, the person moving into aged care will be visited by one or two members who will discuss their different aged care options. The ACAT or ACAS members will enquire about their lifestyle and health needs to determine what sort of care they require and if they are eligible for government support. Following completion, they will be supplied with a copy of their assessment which must be shown when applying for residential care.

Step 2: Exploring facilities

You can get information about aged care facilities in your area by browsing through the Aged Care Reviews website. Read reviews, view star ratings, and find out more details about the facilities in your area. Each place is unique, so it is recommended you research as many as possible before settling on one particular facility. Once you’ve made a shortlist, arrange a visit to inspect some facilities, keeping in mind what others have said in reviews.

It’s a good idea to undergo this part of the process with family members, but remember, the wants and needs of the person moving into aged care are most important. Ask them if they prefer to stay close to their established social network and in an area they know well, or if they want to be closer to certain family members.

When on your tour, take a checklist and a list of questions with you. Questions to ask include:

  • What are the qualifications of the staff?
  • Will they need to move if their level of care changes?
  • Will they have a choice of bedrooms?
  • Can they bring personal items with them, such as a favourite chair?
  • Is the daily routine fixed or flexible?
  • Can they bring a pet or have one visit?
  • Can they eat meals in their room?
  • How is resident privacy ensured?
  • Can family stay overnight if needed?
  • Have all costs been explained?

Make a list of pros and cons, consider staff to patient ratios, take part in an activity program or dine in the dining room and get to know some of the residents. If your loved one has a health condition, strong religious beliefs or dietary needs, this is the time to discuss them. If you do take a tour of a facility, don’t forget to leave a review on the Aged Care Reviews website to help other people who are in the same position.

Step 3: Work out the costs

Despite the Government subsidising costs, you may still need to pay for accommodation and daily fees. Daily fees contribute to nursing and personal care, meals, linen and laundry, heating and cooling. From September 2014 to 19 March 2015, the maximum basic daily fee for new residents is $47.15 per day, but this will increase each year in line with increases to the aged pension.

Accommodation fees apply only if your loved one’s assets exceed an amount set by the Australian Government. These fees can be paid either as a lump sum, via regular periodic payments, or as a combination of the two.

It is worth getting professional financial advice on costs and any impact on the pension or tax status. For more information on funding changes, see our three part series which explains them simply.

Step 4: Making the move

When it comes time to move, the feelings of sadness can often be overwhelming. To ease the transition, ensure your loved one has lots of visitors in the first few weeks. This will help them to continue feeling valued and important.

Make sure they take with them some of their favourite things, such as a mug, family photographs, a painting, music and books.

Help them to build positive relationships with staff, as these will be their constants and the people they turn to with concerns.

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