How to Choose The Right Aged Care Community For You
Choosing an aged care community is a big decision. We asked Carinity’s Regional Residential Aged Care Manager, Jodie Little, for her tips and advice on what to keep in mind during your search.
There’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing aged care for a loved one. Should it be a not-for-profit provider? Is the aged care community near me? What features and services are available? How much does it cost? Researching aged care communities can quickly become overwhelming.
Jodie Little, one of Carinity’s Regional Residential Aged Care Managers, has helped hundreds of families through their decision-making process. We asked her for her top tips for selecting the community that’s right for you.
Top Tips for Selecting an Aged Care Provider
- Make an appointment to tour an aged care community to ensure the right staff are available and able to spend time with you.
- Have a conversation about what is important to your loved ones, including what is important to them in their regular routine
- Do your research in advance, so you can work out which communities suit your needs
- Ask questions about what matters to you.
- Trust your ‘gut feel’ when on a tour.
- Consider respite if possible to try living in the community
- Ask questions upfront about the things that matter to you or that the community will need to accommodate
- Consider whether you prefer a not-for-profit provider All providers, regardless of their profit status, are assessed against the same quality and compliance measures. Carinity is a faith-based not-for-profit provider, and accepts people of all faiths
“I think getting out and seeing a community by taking a tour is incredibly important,” says Jodie. “It’s the best way to get a feel for the place, if you can do it.” But before you jump in the car, she recommends working out what it is that your loved one actually wants, needs, and prefers. This includes things like activities, the location and the environment.
“Think of the feel of the facility — does your loved one want a homely environment that feels familiar, or something more like a five-star hotel,” she explains. “Residents need to feel comfortable in the space, and this looks different for everyone.”
While a well-maintained and comfortable environment is important, the real sense of safety and care in a community comes from the people in it.
Comparing or evaluating the care staff in a community can be difficult. As Jodie explains, it’s not always as easy as checking out how many staff you can spot. “Staffing can depend on how many residents are in a particular wing, what time of day it is and the level of care those residents require,” she explains. Generally, there will be more staff available for busier shifts, such as when dining or showers takes place. Information around staffing can also be found as part of the Aged Care Quality Standards Star Ratings, though it’s important to be aware that not all staff, such as activities officers, physiotherapists and kitchen teams, are included in these figures.
The timing of your tour is also important. Like most seniors, residents in an aged care community are often busiest in the morning. Jodie recommends timing your tour accordingly: “the best time for a tour is mid-morning because that’s when the place is jumping. Afternoons are quieter because often residents are resting, so it can be a little harder to get a gut feel for the place.” Jodie also recommends asking to see the activities calendar to get a sense of what’s on around the community. Booking a tour in advance is also key to ensure the right staff are available to show you around and answer your questions.
Another way to get a feel for a community is through respite. While not all communities are able to offer respite it can be an opportunity to experience life as a resident and to work out whether it suits you and your family. Often, residents who move in on respite choose to stay permanently once they’ve settled into the community and recognised the benefits of 24/7 care, support and social engagement.
Everyone is different – individuality and personal choice are important to maintain even after a move into residential care. Jodie suggests making a list of what’s important in your loved one’s lifestyle and asking key questions about whether these preferences can be met. “For example, if Mum likes to have her hair set every Wednesday, can the hairdresser come weekly to accommodate that, because it’s a big part of her identity. Or, would it be possible for us to have Dad ready to be taken to church by a friend each Sunday? These are comparatively small things, but they’re important parts of life and go a long way in maintaining a sense of self and independence.”
From a quality and compliance perspective, there are resources accessible online to help inform your decisions. My Aged Care provides information about star ratings and compliance measures, while online reviews, organisation websites and trusted local health providers can all offer input and recommendations.
Ultimately, for Jodie the decision comes down to one important thing: trusting your gut instinct. Jodie finds that for many families, by the time they’re visiting on a tour they’ve done their research and are well informed. “People are coming in very educated about each community they’re considering. A tour is your chance to get a gut instinct about the place, to walk in and go ‘yeah, this feels right’. I think it’s important to trust that.”