How to choose quality aged care
DECISIONS about finding quality aged care for loved ones are often made under pressure and at an emotional time.
Deteriorating health of an ageing family member often forces a quick fix, say aged care experts, so preparing early is vital.
Will Burkitt, an aged care specialist with investment adviser Mercer, said having a conversation with parents and older relatives about an ageing life plan should ideally happen in advance of any health crisis.
"You can create a life plan with them," he said.
"Think about what's really important - downsizing their home, living in the same community, wanting a sea or tree change, moving into retirement accommodation or having care provided at home.''
Sydney University associate professor in ageing and health Lee-Fay Low said once an aged care facility became the best option for a loved one some important questions need to be asked.
"You need to figure out what's right for your loved one, whether it's dementia expertise, mental health, a language or cultural focus, obesity lifts, palliative or frail care or one which caters for couples,'' she said.
"It's a time when people are feeling stressed and guilty.
"You can't make this decision in a rush.
"If it was me, (making the decision) for the rest of the family, I would want to be happy with that choice."
Prof Low recommends starting with the government's myagedcare.gov.au website before visiting other sites to ask these questions:
"What are the staff to resident ratios?"
There are no benchmarks but Prof Low's opinion is 1:5 in high care and 1:8 for low care.
"What are the nurse to resident ratios and are they different at night time?"
Good aged care can have a nurse for every 20 beds with a range of needs.
Is there a high staff turnover or agency staff?
It can help if your loved one has consistent care with the same staff.
"Can I see a room?"
Check if it is cleaned regularly, has natural light, heating and cooling. If it's appropriate, can residents freely move around or leave the facility? Are there panic alarms or cameras? And if it's shared, is there provision for privacy such as curtains?
How do staff talk to residents and is there a level of respect?
Family members should hang around for a meal to check for quality and how staff interact with residents. Are resident enjoying themselves?
"Can my loved one have a pet?"
Some places allow residents to bring their own furniture and pets to a room. Some have a shared animal that lives at the facility.
Prof Low said should also make personal judgments about the potential for friendships with other residents, and should watch activities created for residents.
She said the myagedcare.gov.au website provided details of sanctions for facilities that had not met aged care quality standards, quelling some fears sparked by horror stories emerging from the Aged Care Royal Commission.
"I'm optimistic the inquiry will improve the process with benchmarked information,'' Prof Low said.