Finding the right aged care home for your elderly loved one — where they feel safe, happy and well cared for can be an emotionally overwhelming process. After all, there are lots of details to consider and it is important to choose an environment that will not only assist and support your loved one but enrich their quality of life.
This step-by-step guide is designed to help you make informed choices when selecting an aged care home. We will explore what makes a good aged care home and the important questions you will need to ask to ensure you get the best quality care to suit your elderly parent’s needs.
What makes a good aged care home?
Placing an elderly relative in to care is one of the hardest decisions you will ever have to make. What to look for in a good nursing home may seem simple on the surface, but it is important to pay attention to details and conduct a thorough investigation of the facility, including asking some less-obvious questions, before you make a final decision on which aged care home is right for you. Ideally, you want complete peace of mind that your loved one will feel comfortable, safe and happy in their new home. Here is a list of essential qualities to look for in a good nursing home, and the important questions to ask.
#1 High-quality staffing
Staffing ratios, morale and training all have a direct impact on an aged care home facility capacity to provide quality care. Currently, in Australia, there is no federally mandated staff ratio or minimum skills level for residential aged care workers. To ensure that your elderly loved one’s physical and emotional wellbeing needs are met, it is important to ask the following questions:
- Staffing ratio: What is the staff to elderly resident ratio? How many staff provide direct care? What are the staffing levels at daytime vs night time?
- Consistency and trust: Are staff familiar with each resident’s medical needs and unique requirements? Do residents have the opportunity to form trusting bonds with care providers or do they regularly encounter regular turnover of staff which leads to disturbance, confusion and frustration?
- Access to medical care and transparency: How frequently do residents receive visits from doctors, nurses and medical specialists? Does the aged care home provide 24/7 access to a Registered Nurse? How do staff safely administer, monitor, and assist a resident in taking medicine? Are you able to view and make a copy of your relatives care plan and medication regime, without a lengthy wait or need to submit a freedom of information request?
- Range of services: Are staff qualified to assist residents with their specific needs? What physical, occupational, or therapeutic services are available onsite? Does the aged care home’s pharmacy provide delivery, consultation and review of medicines?
- Staff turnover: What is the staff turnover at the aged care home? A high turnover can indicate a stressful work environment that creates low work satisfaction and negatively impacts the quality of care.
- Staff stress levels: What are the average hours worked? How many staff work double shifts? Are they required to multitask or have more than one job function? What support does the aged care home provide staff to support their wellbeing?
- Quality of relationships: Do carers make an effort to connect with residents and get to know them personally? What kind of relationship do carers have with residents? Do they show interest and kindness?
- Training: Are staff professionally qualified? How long do care staff receive training? Do staff receive mentoring and ongoing professional development?
- Medical emergencies: How are medical emergencies handled? Does the aged care home have a clearly stated procedure for responding to medical emergencies? Is there an arrangement with a nearby hospital?
- Culturally appropriate care: Are staff equipped to handle communication issues with residents from non-English speaking families?
- Balance of expertise: Are there enough trained Registered Nurses to supervise other staff?
#2 High standards for living
Building and facilities
- Cleanliness: Is the aged care home clean, tidy and well-maintained?
- Design: is the building well-designed and easy to navigate? Are the rooms spacious with plenty of natural light?
- Comfort: Does the aged care feel welcoming? Do the rooms offer heating and cooling? Do the air conditioning and heating work?
- Private spaces: Are there options for private bedrooms? If the room is shared, do curtains provide privacy? Do individuals have the ability to personalise the look of their own private space? Does the room have a telephone point so that your elderly loved one can make phone calls in private?
- Bedroom furnishings: Are the furnishings high-quality and comfortable? What mattress is used and are allergies taken into consideration?
- Communal spaces: Are there plenty of breakaway spaces for residents and visitors? Is there a nice garden or outdoor area that provides a place to relax?
- Health and safety: Are there ample lifts and ramps? How many panic alarms are in the room? Does the home have fire safety sprinklers installed? Do the fire exits work? If your elderly loved one is restrictive in movement, how long would it take to get to the nearest fire exit?
- Food budget: What is the daily food budget per client? What does the food budget cover? Is the aged care home able to accommodate your elderly loved one’s dietary requirements? Does the aged care home offer a range of food and give residents input into the menu?
- Food quality: Are all meals made with fresh, quality ingredients? Is the food visually appealing? How often is the menu changed?
#3 A strong sense of community
- Community engagement: Is the aged care home engaged with the wider community? Does the aged care home schedule regular day trips or excursions? Can volunteers and family members regularly visit the aged care home?
- Atmosphere: Do the residents look happy? Are there opportunities to socialise? Does the facility have pets?
- Activities: Does the aged care home have a full-time, qualified diversional therapist? What activities are on offer, how often, and are these tailored to residents’ needs? Are residents given a choice in whether or not to participate?
#3 Transparency and ethical management
Management and finance
- Management: Who owns the nursing home? Are they listed on the stock exchange? Do the Directors come from a care or health background? Do the Directors have a positive reputation in the community?
- Finances: What are the aged care home’s income and expenses? What does the cash flow of the business look like? This may dictate day-to-day operations in the home.
- Leadership: Does the leadership value elderly people and their contribution to society? Do they support staff to care well above minimum standards? Do they set a positive example for staff to follow and promote a culture of openness to feedback?
- Transparency: Are elderly residents and families kept well-informed?
- Respect: Are regular meetings held between aged care home staff and elderly residents to talk about ongoing care and discuss concerns? Does the resident feel they have a choice and are listened to on any queries or concerns they may have?
The search for the right aged care home for your elderly loved one can feel overwhelming. It’s important to take your time and investigate your options thoroughly. Asking these important questions will help you ensure that your loved one receives the best quality of care to meet their emotional, physical and medical needs.
Get in touch today for a free consultation with Bob Morton at Property Clearance about how to declutter your elderly loved one’s possessions and help them overcome the psychological barrier of moving to an aged care home.
References and Additional Resources
My Aged Care. (2018). Aged Care Services.
Australian Aged Care Quality Agency. (2018). Australian Aged Care Quality Agency.
Australian Government. (2018). Resources for Older Australians.
Choice. (2018). Tips For Choosing The Right Aged Care.
Aged Care Crisis. (2015). Nursing Home Checklist.
Hellocare. (2017). What Do The Best Nursing Homes All Have In Common?
Joseph Rowntree Foundation. (2013). The 10 Most Important Attributes Of A Good Care Home.