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Navigating Aged Care homes: 9 questions every family should ask

As our loved ones age, ensuring they receive the best care understandably becomes a top priority. While it’s wonderful to have them at home with family, that’s not always practical for variety of reasons, and moving to Residential Aged Care (sometimes called Aged Care homes) can become the best option.

Finding a way to navigate the maze of Residential Aged Care options or nursing homes can be overwhelming, but asking the right questions can help you make informed decisions to ensure your parent or loved one has the best care and is comfortable and happy in their new home. 

Parent in aged care

Here are nine crucial questions to ask when planning for aged care for your parents.

1. What level of care do they need?

Understanding your parent’s specific needs is important, because that will help you to know what to look for in Aged Care homes. Determine whether they require low-level support with daily tasks, high-level medical care, or something in between – and think about how that might change in the longer term as well as their needs right now. Consider factors such as mobility, cognitive abilities, and medical conditions to assess the appropriate level of care. For instance, if your parent has dementia, it’s important to ask about specialised facilities and staff that are equipped to handle memory-related challenges.

2. What services and amenities are offered?

Ask about the range of services available within the residence, including healthcare, social activities, meal options, care services, and transportation. Access to amenities such as gardens, hairdressers, and exercise facilities can significantly enhance your parent’s quality of life. As above, consider whether the Aged Care homes offer specialised care for conditions such as dementia, or palliative care. Ask for a detailed list of available services and how they cater to individual needs.

Parent in aged care

3. What is the staff-to-resident ratio?

Adequate staffing is essential for providing personalised care and attention to residents. Ask about the staff-to-resident ratio during different shifts to ensure that your parent will receive the attention and support they need. Inquire about the qualifications and training of staff members, including nurses, caregivers, and allied health professionals. You might also like to ask how staff members are supervised and evaluated to ensure quality care.

4. How does the facility handle medical emergencies?

Ask about the Aged Care Residence’s protocols for handling medical emergencies, including access to healthcare professionals, emergency response times, and procedures for notifying family members. Ensure that the residence has appropriate medical equipment and resources on-site to address common health issues and emergencies. Ask about the availability of trained medical staff and who oversees emergency preparedness.

5. What are the costs and payment options?

Understanding the financial aspect of Aged Care homes is important when making a decision on which option works best for your family. Inquire about the costs involved, including accommodation fees, care services, and any additional charges. Explore payment options such as government subsidies, pension contributions, and private insurance coverage – and ask if the Aged Care Residence can help you to work out how much government assistance you’re likely to receive, and if they can help guide you through the process. Consider the long-term affordability of the facility and any potential fee increases.

6. What are the visiting hours and policies?

It’s understandable that you’ll want to visit your parent, and maintaining that regular contact is essential for their emotional wellbeing. Ask about the Aged Care home’s visiting hours, and any restrictions on visitation or outings. Ensure that the residence supports family involvement in the care process and provides opportunities for meaningful interactions. Ask about the availability of different types of visiting areas, such as gardens and cafes, and if there are any restrictions on the number of visitors allowed at a time, as well as whether family is welcome for special celebrations.

Parent in aged care

7. How does the facility promote social engagement and activities?

Social interaction is important for maintaining mental and emotional health, and as we get older, we can tend to become more isolated. Ask about the Aged Care Residence’s social programs, recreational activities, and opportunities for residents to engage with each other and the community. A vibrant social environment can enhance your parent’s overall wellbeing and quality of life. Ask for a calendar of upcoming events and activities, and whether residents can have input into the activity schedule.

8. Can residents personalise their living spaces?

We all know that being able to personalise our living space can help us to feel more comfortable and at home when we move, and that’s no different in Residential Aged Care. Ask about the nursing home’s policies regarding personal belongings, decorations, and furnishings in resident rooms. Ensure that your parents will have the freedom to personalise their space while maintaining safety and cleanliness standards. Ask if there are restrictions on certain items, or if assistance is available for setting up personal spaces.

9. What is the feedback from current residents and their families?

Hearing first-hand experiences from current residents and their families can provide valuable insights into the quality of care and living experience within the facility. Ask for references or testimonials – or even better – see if you can meet some residents when you visit the facility to observe their daily operations and interactions between staff and residents. Pay attention to the overall atmosphere and cleanliness of the facility, as well as the demeanor of staff members. Ask about any recent surveys or feedback mechanisms in place to gather input from residents and families, and how the residence addresses and responds to concerns or complaints.

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