Sometimes it’s a gradual realisation that a parent isn’t coping as well as they used to at home. A growing concern about their safety and wellbeing that starts you thinking they might need constant care and wondering what that might look like. Sometimes it’s more sudden. An illness, injury, or hospital stay that makes it clear the best way forward for them is residential aged care. Either way, it’s likely to be an emotional time and it’s not unusual to feel that you just don’t know where to begin!
While the residential aged care system can feel complicated and overwhelming, taking things step by step will help you to feel confident that you’ve made the best decision on behalf of the person you love.
First up is eligibility. Anyone moving to a residential aged care home, what some people used to call a nursing home, needs to be assessed by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) to determine the level of care they need. Assessments are free and can be arranged by visiting myagedcare.gov.au or calling 1800 200 422.
While you’re waiting for the assessment, it’s good to be thinking about what locality would be best. If your parent has strong connections in their local community, somewhere nearby would make it easier for neighbourhood friends to visit. If being close to family is more important, think about where various family members live and what would work best all round. Maintaining connections is very important for aged care residents so it’s good to choose somewhere that makes visiting easy for everyone.
Once you’ve decided on one or two areas to explore, do some research on the homes available there. If you have a preference for a particular provider, phone or check their website to see what homes they have in that locality. Otherwise, myagedcare.gov.au enables you to search by postcode. The information they provide will help you to decide which homes to investigate further.
The next step is to make contact and arrange to visit the homes you have in mind. If your parent is able to come with you that’s great. If that’s not possible, the consultant you meet with should be able to provide you with material that will help them to see what the home looks like and the care and services it provides. In many cases online virtual tours are now also available to make thing easier if visiting the home isn’t possible.
When you visit, make your assessment based on both the surroundings and the people you meet. Are the common areas fresh, attractive and well-maintained? Are the bedrooms comfortable, with all the conveniences you’re looking for? Can your parent bring some treasured pieces with them to make it feel like home?
It’s natural to consider spaces according to our own preferences, but try to put those aside and think from your parent’s perspective what would suit your parent and make them feel most comfortable.
Food and activities are an important part of day-to-day life, so ask to see a copy of the menu and activity program.
While surroundings are important, residential aged care is very much about people, so everyone you deal with, from the person who first takes your call, to the consultant handling your enquiry and the staff you meet at the home should give you a feeling of confidence about the culture of the organisation. It’s also important during your visit to observe how residents and staff interact.
Finances can be one of the most daunting things about residential aged care. Once again, starting as soon as you can and working through each part of the process can make it less confusing. The government subsidises residential aged care, and how much each person contributes depends on their financial situation. This is determined by Services Australia through a form you need to complete and submit to them. Once they have provided a fee advice letter you will be able to discuss with your chosen home the actual costs that would be involved for your parent to receive care with them.
When you know which home you prefer, the consultant will talk with you about the application process and answer any questions you have about payments and other details. An appointment will be arranged with one of the home’s clinical leaders so care needs can be discussed in detail.
Making the transition to residential aged care is a big step for everyone concerned and it’s helpful to have someone to talk with you about what’s involved in the process. With many years of experience, Anglicare has people who can guide you through each step. Wherever you’re at on the journey, call us on 1300 111 278 for help in making the best decision for the parent you love.