Making the decision to move into a nursing home isn’t always an easy one. From a practical perspective, there’s a lot to consider, from assessing eligibility and applying for appropriate funding to finding the right place to call home. And that’s even before we consider the mental stresses of a move, especially if it involves leaving a long-term home or moving away from family and friends.

Whether you’re making that choice for yourself, or working through the process with an elderly relative, our guide to moving into a nursing home is here to help take a little of that weight off.

We’ll take a look at the steps you’ll need to take to find and apply for a place in an aged care facility, as well as some of the things you can do as a family unit to help make the eventual transition easier for everyone involved.

The basic steps

Let’s take a look at the basic steps you’ll need to take to be accepted into a nursing home in Australia.

Check eligibility

To ensure your family member is eligible to move into a nursing home or aged care facility, an assessment will need to be undertaken to establish the level of care needed.

The My Aged Care team can refer people for assessments, which are the undertaken by your local Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). In Victoria, this is referred to as the Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS).

A local ACAT member, usually a nurse or social worker, will pay a home visit to discuss the current situation and assess the need for government funded services. The person being assessed will be able to have a support person present, and any relevant family can also be interviewed as part of the process.

If your loved one is found to be eligible for entry into an aged care home, you’ll receive a letter of approval and a support plan tailored to your needs. Once you have this, you’ll be able to start applying for funding and potential nursing homes.

If the ACAT doesn’t find them eligible, don’t panic. Their follow-up letter will explain why and let you know who to contact next. Your family member might be eligible for alternative services, or you can choose to appeal the decision.

Manage your money

Financing the move and the ongoing costs associated with it is often a major concern for families. While the government subsidises aged care homes to keep costs as reasonable as possible, you or your loved one may still be eligible to cover some of the costs.

Working out what you need to pay can be a little tricky, especially if you’re navigating it on behalf of someone else or aren’t particularly well versed with technology. Luckily there’s plenty of tools available online to help you, including through the My Aged Care website, or you can speak directly to someone over the phone. We’ve also got a general guide to aged care fees right here.

With so much of the funding being means-tested, make sure all relevant financial records are up to date, to make sure you know exactly what you’re entitled to.

Choose a nursing home

Choosing a nursing home might be one of the most daunting parts of the process. The key is to take your time and assess all your options.

Make a list of all your wants and needs and take it with you on site visits. Ask lots of questions and read up on reviews. You want to be confident that all your family member’s needs will be met, so don’t be afraid to spend a little time choosing the perfect place.

To get started, we recommend checking out our guide to The 8 Aged Care Quality Standards or our list of the best-rated retirement villages in Brisbane.

Apply for the home

Apply to as many homes as you like – having a back-up choice if your preferred home doesn’t pan out certainly doesn’t hurt! Once accepted, the home will reach out to the new resident or their nominated contact to get the ball rolling.

All nursing homes will have their own application process to follow, and it’s a good idea to let any other homes you’ve applied to know if you take a spot somewhere else. This will free up a space in the application queue for someone else.

Move in

Moving into a nursing home might not be quite so simple as packing a few boxes and setting off for the home. If the previous home is being sold, you’ll have to prepare to clear out any leftover belongings and organise the sale.

There are plenty of professional services, including here at Property Clearance, that can help in this capacity, should you need it.

This phase in particular can be quite emotional, so take the time to pack things as a family if you can. It’s a great time to share some fond memories and say goodbye properly.

Managing services

This will be ongoing part of the process, especially if the move has been fuelled by health issues – whether mental or physical.

Whether you’re managing your own care, simply helping in the move, or are the designated contact for someone else’s, staying on top of affairs is crucial. Stay in touch with the nursing home, check in on your loved ones regularly, and keep an eye on any changes to their ongoing care.

Managing the emotional workload

Of course, simply going through the motions of applying for and moving into a nursing home is only half the battle. There’s often a huge emotional weight attached to the process, and it’s important that everyone in the family understands what’s happening and feels supported throughout.

Below you’ll find a few tips to help manage the mental load of this transition, and to make the move as painless as possible.

Be as prepared as possible

Having a solid plan in place really can reduce any mental stresses along the way, so be sure to give yourself and your family plenty of time to plan, organise, and prepare for the eventual move.

This not only ensures that the whole process is well managed and goes as smoothly as possible, but also allows time for everyone to process what is happening at a pace comfortable for them.

Talk it out

Taking the time to help family members understand why the move needs to happen is absolutely key. It’s also important to acknowledge that this is a difficult time, and to make sure that everyone’s feelings – positive and negative – are heard and valued.

If they’re able, encourage the person moving into aged care to share their reasons behind the move. It’s a wonderful opportunity to advocate for your own decision, and to help the rest of the family understand why from their perspective. This can be very helpful if there’s particularly young children involved who might not understand why their relative is moving away.

For some older people, navigating the ins and outs of the system can be difficult, particularly with so much of the process being handled online these days. Having a family member break the processes down can be very helpful, without compromising their sense of independence.

Some families may find themselves in the position of managing the move on behalf of someone else, particularly if mental decline is one of the reasons behind it. Talking through the process is absolutely critical here, to ensure that the person moving understands everything to the best of their ability, and that things are discussed with plenty of patience and empathy for the situation.

If you need help dealing with negative feelings around the move, we’ve got a great guide to helping manage feelings of anxiety and guilt when moving a parent or a loved one to assisted living.

Make the space feel like home

When moving, be sure to pack plenty of little touches to make the new space feel like home. Family photos, precious ornaments, and favourite artworks are all great ideas. Even a fresh bunch of flowers or a nice sheet set can make a strange new place feel welcoming. Some aged care facilities might even allow small pets too.

Stay connected

One of the biggest worries for anyone moving into aged care is a loss of community and connection, and a fear of being forgotten or left behind.

If you have a family member in a nursing home, try to visit as often as you can. Planning visits in advance can also give everyone something to look forward to, especially around holidays and birthdays. Outings and day trips away from the home are also a great way to stay in touch and feel connected.

Encourage those making the transition into aged care to keep an eye on their chosen home’s social calendar. Many nursing homes will have plenty of clubs and activities to help make new friends and maintain a sense of community. There will often also be opportunities for residents’ families to take part in activities and help bridge the gap between old and new social circles.

Stay positive

Above all else, stay positive! While moving to a nursing home can feel like an ending of sorts, it’s important to focus on the benefits that will be gained from the move. Amenities, social events, and specialised care are just a few examples of positive things that you can chat about to keep spirits high.

Ready to get started?

Hopefully, we’ve given you enough to get started on the road to moving a loved one into a nursing home. The key thing is to give everyone involved time to make decisions, and to approach the process with patience and empathy.

And remember that there’s a lot of different options when it comes to aged care, so if you feel like a nursing home isn’t the right fit, be sure to explore some of the other types of care available!