You’ve viewed the website and driven past the building; but the only way to really know whether an aged care facility might be right for you is to get a feel for it, on the inside.
**Disclaimer** right now, during Sydney’s 2021 Covid-Lockdown it is unlikely you’ll be granted access to walk around inside the home, until the risk of Covid being transmitted inside Aged Care Homes is substantially reduced with high vaccination rates.
Therefore, although viewing your shortlist of facilities is important, until you can get in to get a ‘feel for the place’ here are a list of considerations to keep in mind in your decision making.
Ultimately, not only is it important for a facility to feel good, it is equally important to get an understanding of how it operates to know whether it is somewhere you or your family member could live and be cared for.
- What’s going on behind the front door?
Sometimes first impressions can disappoint.
Some facilities conduct regular tours, say once a month; others provide tours one-on-one. Some tours are given by the facility manager. Other times it may be the nearest Carer, who may be watching his/her watch to return to their duties.
A friendly and interested welcome by the facility is a good start, but not always a given. Don’t let the person who takes the tour completely impact your view. Keep an open mind.
Things to consider (once you get inside the door):
- the cleanliness of the common areas and resident’s rooms
- how the staff interact with the residents
- whether you notice any smells – chemical/mould/food
- what the residents are doing – are they engaged in activities or mostly in their rooms?
- do you think the residents look or sound happy?
- do you like the feeling of the place? Does it have enough light?
- Is newer better?
New facilities are being built every year, and these can make others look a little…’old’.
However, old isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It may mean the home is smaller with fewer residents – and therefore feels welcoming, familiar and homely.
Older Residences usually have established gardens. They are also likely to be located in inner city areas rather than the outer suburbs where family and friends find it harder to visit.
Newer facilities tend to be built on the outer-edges of the city because that is where the land is available. They are also likely to be bigger and grander. Consider whether newer will necessarily suit you / your loved one.
Where an older facility may have had 60 residents, many newer facilities will have 150+.
Oftentimes, the residences are divided into clusters or communities of ~ 40 residents.
Instead of a big dining room for all the residents there will smaller, more intimate settings. This can be a good thing.
- What’s the food like?
Food is a big part of everyone’s life. Everyone likes good food. It is also the first thing many residents complain about.
The preference is for meals to be prepared on site – in a kitchen within the facility rather than cooked offsite and delivered.
Questions to ask even before entering the facility might include:
- is there are a menu and a choice of hot and cold meals during the day and in the evening?
- can residents request or get access to food at other times?
- are there options for different preferences, such as vegetarian or Kosher diets or cultural requests?
Most facilities cater for family members to join residents for meals so it may be possible to ‘book in’ for a meal one day. Do this on your tour date, to observe (and taste) the quality and presentation of meals.
- What activities are available?
What is there to do? Hopefully residents have some say in the activities that are in place and most days there is something to do – even if it isn’t everyday. Are there some activities that appeal to you/your loved one? Is gardening, or cooking? Art or language classes?
Giving people the option to stay busy and engaged with activities, interesting outings, and visiting artists or speakers is very important.
- How much does it cost?
Affordability can be a big issue for someone looking at aged care.
The Refundable Accommodation Deposits (RAD) can vary considerably between facilities, with many Australian facilities asking around $400,000.
Many facilities in Sydney are asking for a RAD around $550,000. There are also plenty of places with RADs ranging up to $950,000.
[The RAD can also be paid in daily instalments. A RAD of $550,000 roughly translates to a Daily Accommodation Payment of $95 a day.]
In addition there will be a Basic Daily Care fee of about $47 a day. Depending on a person’s income and assets they may be asked to pay a Centrelink determined Means Tested Care fee which can be up to $208 a day. (This fee is capped at $28, 338.71 a year).
In summary, a person needs to think about the cash flow requirements of these fees and whether they can afford it. We recommend getting independent financial advice before choosing the Aged Care Home on the look and feel, alone. Services Australia offers a free Financial Information Service – available to anyone, it can show you how to make informed decisions. Naturally, if you already have a trusted Financial Advisor, contact them, or use one of our recommendations
- Extra Services
Many aged care facilities are offering Extra Services as a point of difference. The charge can be anywhere from $20 to $50 a day. It’s important to note: extra service does not mean extra care.
Ask questions about the included vs. extra services – and whether they are important to you / your loved one.
Examples of these services may be the inclusion of a daily newspaper, a glass of wine with dinner or an additional special outing once a month (whether you attend or not). At one facility one service offers a different table setting including heavier weighted cutlery. Another offers premium or standard beverages; and another a weekly ‘hospitality pack’ for residents to offer guests.
- What is important to Mum or Dad?
Lastly, try to look at the facility through the eyes of your Mum, Dad or family member.
Is it a ‘good fit’?
It is easy for family who are helping their loved ones find suitable aged care to be impressed with the ‘shiny things’ the facility offers.
It might be the free WiFi, Foxtel or new Café with a hipster barista. A resort-style facility always appeals greatly to friends and family who will be visiting.
But what is going to matter to the potential resident?
What is most important to them?
After all, it is going to be their new home… not yours.