The aged care industry has been under intense scrutiny in recent times, and the decision about re-locating a loved one to an aged care facility can be a difficult one. It’s natural to be concerned about where you – or your ageing family member – will end up. It’s not all doom and gloom however – there are a great number of fantastic aged care homes which are ensuring residents are living out their final days happily and healthily.
For more on how aged care facilities can improve the quality of life for older Australians, click here.
So how to do know whether you’ve found a good aged care facility or not? It’s not enough to look at the slick copy in the marketing brochures – you really need to find out for yourself. Here’s how.
Inspect the facilities
There’s nothing like being able to experience first-hand the atmosphere and conditions in an aged care facility. Book a tour of the place and pay particular attention to what you find. It’s a red flag if you are limited to inspecting the facility only at an arranged time, as managers can make sure the facility is presented in the best light. This may not reflect reality however, so if you can, try and visit the facility a number of times at different times of the day. Facilities with nothing to hide will be happy for you to drop in whenever it’s convenient for you.
Here’s what to look out for.
Watch closely how staff interact with residents. Do they speak kindly and respectfully, or treat residents as if they are an inconvenience? This is a good indicator of the type and level of care provided when no one is watching. For example, note whether the manager greets residents as he or she conducts you around the facility. Do staff members seem to be engaged with residents as they work with them? Do residents look content and engaged? What happens when residents are distressed? Are there personal touches around (such as photos and memorabilia) that demonstrate a willingness to celebrate the individuality of residents?
Try and find out if there are high levels of staff turnover. This could be a red flag that something’s not right in the facility. However, if you find loyal staff who are happy to stay there year after year, you can be fairly sure you’re onto a winner.
Observe what happens on a day-to-day basis in the aged care facility. Are residents provided with activities and stimulus to help them stay busy and active, or left alone in their rooms? Ask to see the activities schedule and find out whether particular hobbies or interests can be incorporated.
The aged care facility is more than a home for your loved one, it’s also a place where they can receive low-level medical care. For many older people, this is highly necessary as their health deteriorates. Find out what medical facilities are available and how many professional medical staff are available. Does the facility have local GPs who visit or work in with the nursing staff? Consult your local GP about the number of after-hours transfers to the local hospital happening from the aged care facility. If this number is high, it generally means that problems aren’t being effectively dealt with during the day.
Food and nutrition
It’s a great idea to inspect the facility around a mealtime. Have a look at the kitchen facilities and the food served to residents. Are the meals healthy and appetising? Are they filling or are the portion sizes skimpy? How do they cater for different dietary requirements and tastes? Have a chat to the kitchen staff to find the answers to these questions. Do they seem accommodating and willing to help, or treat you as an inconvenience? Nutrition is so important, particularly as people get older, so this is an area that you really want to get right.
Check for previous sanctions or breaches
All aged care facilities in Australia are assessed and accredited by the Australian Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission. This helps to make sure that each facility meets eight minimum standards, including:
- Whether the facility is providing safe and effective clinical care
- Whether residents are treated with respect
- Whether staff have adequate training and qualifications to perform their jobs
Audits for each facility are composed using either planned or unannounced visits to observe the standard of care, review the facility’s documentation and interview staff, residents and families.
If a facility is judged as not being up to standard, a report is filed, and the decision posted publicly. Deficiencies in care can include:
- Not meeting one or more of the eight aged care standards.
- Serious risk. This means the facility may be placing the health, safety or wellbeing of residents at serious risk.
- Sanctions. Homes can be sanctioned if their level of care places a severe and immediate risk to the health, safety or wellbeing of residents.
Knowing the history of a facility’s non-compliance, serious risk decisions and sanctions is important. It’s worthwhile checking each facility you are considering to find out whether they are meeting standards or have met them in the past.
How do I find this information out?
It’s a fairly simple matter to find out if an aged care facility has received any notices on non-compliance or sanctions. You can get the most up-to-date information through the My Aged Care website’s non-compliance checker. Simply enter the name of the aged care facility to check whether it has not met standards or been sanctioned in the past, or whether it is currently being sanctioned.
However, you won’t find any ‘serious risk’ reports here. You can find these at the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission’s website here. You can also find audit and consumer experience reports on this website, which will give you greater detail on the quality of care provided.
Read between the lines
Often, reading between the lines can give you useful insights as to which aged care facilities deliver more. When attending the funeral of elderly friends or family members who were aged care residents, take notice of who attends their funeral. If you come across a group of employees from the aged care facility, this is a good sign that they treat residents as real people rather than just a job. Chances are, if staff members are attending a funeral, they have built a real relationship with the person who has passed away. Discreetly find out where they work – this will give you a great insight into where your loved one is likely to be treated well.
Talk to other families
If the opportunity arises, take the chance to talk to the family members of current residents. Finding out their experience of care in the facility will be enormously helpful in making a decision.
Have realistic expectations
Make sure that your standards for aged care are reasonable. For instance, it’s hardly reasonable to expect staff members to be with your parent or relative every hour of the day. Aged care facilities don’t work like that. Make sure your expectations are realistic and reasonable – otherwise no aged care facility will have any chance of meeting them.
For more on how to choose an aged care facility that’s right for you, click here.
It should soon become apparent whether you’ve found a good aged care facility or not. Use these strategies to make an informed decision – and the best choice for yourself or your loved one.