Choosing an aged care facility

These tips from Feros Care should help you choose the right aged care facility.

Choosing an aged care facility

There are many variables to consider when choosing an aged care home and usually people find that they have to make this important decision under pressure. This is often due to their loved one being in hospital or an event having occurred where they are no longer able to remain living safely at home. 

Unfortunately there is no industry rating system (similar to stars for hotel accommodation) which ranks aged care facilities to assist in your selection process, and despite the negative press about aged care homes, there are many wonderful facilities which can provide the care and support your loved one needs. 

The checklist of considerations is large, but here are few key tips to help narrow down your choice.

Your first impression is one of the most important.

How good an aged care home is does not correspond to the age of the building, or fancy brochures, furniture and foyers. Make sure you have a thorough tour of the facility and observe the interactions between staff and residents – are they happy when the staff talks to them and do the staff seem caring and attentive? Take note of the general cleanliness of the facility – does it smell? Is it warm, inviting and comfortable or is it more like a hospital? Are there pets? Laughter? Are most residents in their rooms or are many residents up and participating in the day’s activities? Are the residents dressed and appearances well cared for?

Is the location convenient?

It is important that the home is convenient for family and friends to visit and that it offers the opportunity for the resident to be able to get out and continue to connect with their community where possible (church, events, shops, club etc.). Loneliness is a serious issue for older people, and there is a need for them to continue to be connected with the family and friends and their community as much as possible. Ask what opportunities residents have for outings and interactions with the local community.

References and reputation

Request from the aged care home references or contact details of a few families who currently have loved ones staying there and talk to them about their experiences to date. Be wary of stories of well-meaning friends and families who may not know the current environment of the home.  Accreditation reports on the website can also inform you, with results of independent audits and visits focussing on the quality of care and services of the home.

Food and dining

Food for many of us is an important and enjoyable part of life, and this does not change when we decide to live in an aged care facility.  Ask if you can join the residents for lunch or observe meal time, quality and presentation of meals. Ask to see the menu – how often does it change and how do they accommodate residents’ requests and tastes? Is there choice at each meal?  Are there seasonal menus? Do they have extra services? Or opportunities for residents to have or purchase wine or preferred beverages?

Safety and accessibility

Look for residents’ ability to move around the facility, their access to outdoor areas and gardens. Double check the security arrangements, call bells and fire safety arrangements, such as sprinkler systems. Is there a safe or locked drawer in the resident’s room which allows for money or valuables to be stored?

Lifestyle activities

Ask the facility how it meets the residents’ needs around their lifestyle and interests. What opportunities do residents have in relation to structured and unstructured activities within the facility and activities within the community?  What influence do residents have in what is happening within the facility? Are there residents’ and family meetings and forums? Is there wireless internet or facilities for residents to connect virtually (e.g. Skype) with the family and friends?

Daily living

Ask to see a copy of the resident handbook to find out the ‘house rules’. Are there strict times for personnel care, bed times, meal times, visiting times, or is there a general level of flexibility for individual residents and how does this work?

Visitors and family

Ask what involvement current family and friends play within the facility.  Can they visit without restriction? Can visitors stay for a meal or even overnight? Are there tea and coffee making facilities, family lounge or dining areas?  Are there swings or an activity lounge for visiting children? Ask the facility what processes are in place for residents and families to feedback, complain, request and raise concerns?  What access do families and friends have to the facility manager? What happens if your concerns/needs are not being met? What would be the process?

Health and wellness

Ask what the current arrangements are for access to doctors, dentists and other health professionals. Will the doctors visit after hours? Can the resident keep their current doctor if local?  What type of wellness and alternative therapy programs currently run at the facility, e.g. mobility programs, strength and exercise programs, massage, etc?  What happens if your or the resident’s needs change? Are there provisions in the facility for rehabilitation, post-acute care and palliative care?

Terms and conditions

A final consideration is affordability. Residents may need to contribute by way of lump sum bonds or equivalent periodical payment to enter the facility.  The amount of the lump sum can vary between facilities. In some situations, this may require some of the capital assets to be liquidated (e.g. selling their home).  In addition to lump sum bonds, the daily fee arrangements are set by the Government and are generally standard across all facilities.  It is worth confirming what the fee arrangements are before visiting facilities. It is important to understand under what circumstances the resident would need to move from the facility. 

Put you in their shoes.

When children are searching for accommodation for their parents it is important that they identify what is important for their parents…not themselves!  This is a common situation which can be the cause of ongoing unrest around expectations being met when a senior moves into an aged care facility. For example, having access to Foxtel may be high on the list of essentials for a son or daughter but it may not even come into the thoughts of their parent. Or looking for brand new, contemporary and resort style accommodation when the parent would rather be in more home style, basic accommodation which looks out on to a cottage garden.  Moving parents to a swanky new facility in the city near their children instead of letting them continue to live in an older style facility in their home town.


    To make a comment, please register or login
    13th Feb 2014
    All these aged care articles assume that everyone has friends and family to help out, what happens to those who have no one?
    14th Feb 2014
    Dear I am not too old, for those who don't have family and friends to help, the Public Trustee can assist with managing finances etc. No good for friendship or taking a resident for a drive. However most aged care facilities have entertainment, craft, day trips etc for residents who wish to partake. Friendships can be struck at the facilities and other residents can be like family. It is important to remember that the sole purpose of aged care homes is to generate income for the owners/share holders of the facilities. This income is generated by looking after people who cannot care for themselves. The majority of the 'hands on' staff are among some of the lowest paid workers working under awards. They mainly come from a background where English is their second language. Some residents find this difficult to accept. The 'chefs' do a reasonably good job given that they have very tight budgets to work to. In most cases the 'chefs' take on the role because they cannot get a position elsewhere. Meal presentation for elderly residents can also be an issue when the 'chefs' have not trained in Australia or they have partaken of a brief training course at a TAFE or similar institution. The kitchens must cater for those who can still chew and swallow and those who need a straw. The resulting meal is often a offering that caters for both ends of the resident spectrum. Don't get old.
    15th Feb 2014
    Well if I get so old and decrepit that I can't look after myself and have to go to one of those old age detention centres then I think I will try to arrange to die first!