Choosing an aged care centre is not always about ratings or price. In fact, it’s usually a mix of medical, psychological and social well-being. Checking the food, the accommodation, the pricing scale and the standard services are a big part of the puzzle. But so too is ensuring that the aged care facility you are choosing for yourself or your loved one meets the intended person’s needs.
Here are eight questions to ask when choosing an aged care centre
1) What are your staff ratios like? How many nurses are there on shift versus personal care attendants?
When choosing an aged care centre, you want to know that the people delivering the care can give your loved one the attention they deserve. One simple way of ensuring that this is the case is by asking what the ratio of carers to staff looks like. And taking it further by ensuring that the staff available have the requisite knowledge, skills and backup from nursing staff.
The issue with too few nurses on a shift is that the personal care attendants can take good care of people on the floor level. However, the insight and skill of nurses are required during changes in health, emergencies, to dispense certain types of medications, help with decision-making for unusual occurrences, and so on.
Making sure there is adequate coverage from qualified professionals helps.
2) Are your staff employed to the centre or are they contractors/from an agency?
Continuity of care is the hallmark of any quality aged care service provider. When staff are casual and transient by nature, it creates inconsistency in the quality of care received.
For example, a casual from an agency has to learn the inner workings of a particular centre each time they step through the door. While most aged care centres run reasonably the same re: the basics, the added differences you are paying for do not. And that’s where the difference lies.
Plus, it is difficult to establish relationships with residents if the staff are forever changing. And that could mean individual attention to detail and noticing changes to behaviour or declines in cognition or health may suffer. It may also stymy disclosure, as the trust and bond isn’t there between client and carer.
Also, clients that have dementia, experience brain injury or stroke with memory issues, and/or have difficulty coping with change through Autism, anxiety and other conditions may find a casualised staff an unnecessarily stressful situation.
3) Is there support available from a doctor 24/7?
While nurses and personal care attendants do a wonderful job, for peace of mind and better outcomes, regular oversight from a doctor is necessary. That may include regular visits, on call support and/or doctors on the staff.
Understanding the doctor’s involvement before choosing an aged care centre can go a long way in determining the care needed in your individual situation.
4) How does your fee system work?
When choosing an aged care centre, make sure you know exactly what you are paying for. This includes the initial payment to the aged care centre to access care and what the centre will refund or sell on when a person leaves. Check the fine print of any aged care centres that sell on a placement or unit to ensure you receive market value as opposed to what you paid for.
Also ensure that any property placed up for sale, whether that’s a family property as surety and/or property sold to the next resident, won’t be subject to taxation and/or administration fees that eat up the monies received from the sale. Check what they will charge you for updates and renovations to the property prior to the sale.
All aged care centres charge weekly fees on top of the initial fees for food and other forms of care. It’s important to know where this money will come from and if it is subject to price rises throughout the life of a person’s tenancy.
In an ideal circumstance, it is better to have a lawyer and/or accountant check the financial side of the agreement to avoid higher than expected costs and/or unexpected debt.
5) Besides visiting hours, do you offer teleconferencing with friends and relatives?
Knowing the visiting hours is important. So too is ensuring that anyone in aged care can make use of technology to talk to friends and family that don’t live near the aged care centre.
Australia is a wide, brown land that attracts people from all over the world. The opportunity to stay in contact with friends and family is a relatively simple task, thanks to teleconferencing. Choose the aged care centre that is forward-thinking enough to make the best use of technology. That way, everyone can connect.
It’s great for seeing a centre’s attitude towards family, technology, and doing things a little differently, too.
6) What sorts of specialist services do you offer? Do you offer high dependency care?
While you may enter aged care with a reasonably healthy and mentally sharp person, this may not always be the case. Planning for the future, especially if influenced by a diagnosis that sees a reduction in capacity over time, is essential.
The case for choosing the aged care centre that meets future needs basically comes down to:
a. Will we benefit from an understanding of early intervention practices that inhibit, slow, or cater for changes in a person’s health?
b. Are we saving money by choosing a centre that supplies these services as part of their offering in the long run?
c. What impact will a change of aged care centre have on the person and/or the condition later on?
7) What sort of communication will loved ones receive from the aged care centre?
Choosing an aged care centre is not a set and forget process. You have a right to stay connected and receive regular updates both from the person in the care setting and from the centre itself. This includes changes to health, and emergency situations like falls or bushfires.
Transparency about policy, procedure and activities is paramount for your peace of mind.
8) Can I think about it?
If you are choosing an aged care centre for yourself or a loved one, you should be able to do so without pressure. This includes pressure to make commitments on initial meetings, the dangling of sales and promotions for a limited time, or any kind of situation where you feel as though time to think is not available to you.
Even if the need to enter care is great, it’s important to feel comfortable with the decision you are about to make.
You may take your time to consider all your options prior to committing to a type of service or particular provider.
Choosing an aged care centre is as individual as you are
One size does not fit all. That’s why it’s important to look at the services you need well before you need them. If you know you will need aged care services, start your research early, register for NCAT to avoid the impact of waiting lists, and take your time investigating your options and providers.
It’s also a good idea to create a care plan that outlines your goals and provides a roadmap to the individual as a reference point. You can begin the care plan process with ExSitu in a DIY or as a facilitated service.