Moving a family member into residential care can be a difficult time for everyone involved. You want to choose the best facility possible, but every person is different and what’s best for them will depend on their financial position, cognitive health, and care needs.
Each aged care facility will have upfront and ongoing costs, so you need to be clear about what these actually cover. Will you or your family member need to make any additional payments? If your family member decides to leave the facility, or if they pass away, will any of the money be refunded?
You need to ensure that your family member’s current medical needs are met, but how does the facility monitor their health, nutrition and physical activity on an ongoing basis? How is the information shared with staff members and how often is it reviewed? How much say does your family member get in the decision-making process?
There will always be some element of downsizing involved, but will they be able to bring some of their own furniture? Will they have a private bedroom and bathroom? Is there greenery both inside and outside that can be readily accessed? If so, is it possible for residents to work in the gardens if they wish?
Something as simple as the layout of a space can have a big impact on the experience. For example, a common eating area for a small number of rooms will be less intimidating than one large dining room for all residents, especially if they need to navigate multiple identical hallways to get to there.
What, specifically, does the facility do to make the care experience as home-like as possible? While it’s great to have a daily routine, it’s also nice to be able to choose some things for yourself, such as when you’d like to shower, and when you’d like to eat or participate in activities. If your family member does get to make those choices, how are staff members made aware of this?
One of the most important parts of life in an aged care facility is being able to communicate directly with a carer to create the right care plan. Staff members also need to be able to communicate with each other to ensure that patients’ needs are met.
This is more likely to occur in facilities where carers are assigned to a smaller number of residents across a greater range of daily routines. Where the staff to resident ratio is larger, it will be easier for carers to have personal interaction with residents and develop strong bonds of trust and appreciation. This is especially important for residents who suffer from severe dementia.
At the end of the day, the residential aged care facility you choose for your family member needs to meet their physical, emotional and cognitive needs. This will be their new home, and they should be able to comfortably direct their levels of care with assistance from family.
Open and honest communication between residents and staff—as well as between staff members—is an essential part of the process to ensure that the older people in residential aged care facilities will be treated with the dignity they deserve.