When it comes to choosing a suitable aged care facility for a loved one, it can be incredibly stressful and there can be enormous pressure to choose the ‘right’ facility.

Often people find themselves on this search while on an emotional rollercoaster and without the luxury of time, which may make judgements seemed clouded and uncertain.

In the Australian aged care landscape today, there are a range of facilities to choose from, so knowing what to look for can help you to feel at ease with the decision you make. Knowing what questions to ask can ensure you choose somewhere that aligns with the current lifestyle and care needs of your loved one, making their transition into aged care as comfortable as possible.

Below we have outlined our top three considerations to help when choosing an appropriate aged care facility.

Align values and beliefs

Finding an aged care facility that supports what is important to your loved one can go a long way in ensuring their comfort. Are there cultural considerations to be made? Language barriers? Is a not-for-profit provider working in a field that your loved one is passionate about? Is there a niche interest that is on offer at a certain facility you know your loved one would enjoy?

Whether it is a not-for-profit, a private religious facility or one that can cater to English as a second language, researching niche wants and needs could help create a list of homes that align with you or your loved ones values and beliefs.

For example, RSL Care SA is a not-for-profit organisation with a mission to ‘support veterans, their dependents, and the broader community through a range of integrated retirement living and aged care services’. Over 50% of our residents are veterans or dependents of veterans and we offer a range of support and special commemorations for this cohort. However, many of our residents do not have a veteran connection, but value the veteran ethos of trust, respect, selfless service and ‘looking after your mates’.

The ‘feel’ can be just as important as the care

While online research may assist in finding facilities that align with interests or are close to friends and family, it can be difficult to ensure a suitable match until you experience the look and ‘feel’ of a facility in person.

Most facilities will happily offer tours to help with understanding what daily life would be like. A tour is the best way for you to get a ‘feel’ for things you cannot see in a photograph. What is the culture like? Do residents look happy and cared for? What does it smell like? Is there safe outdoor spaces close to resident rooms? Try to imagine your loved one at the facility. Can you picture their belongings in the room? Are there spaces for you to feel comfortable in when you visit?

Most people who tour a facility will know within the first few minutes whether it will be a suitable option for their loved one or not. Take your time to really take in the surroundings. Talk to the receptionist, talk to some of the residents if possible. Ask plenty of questions and envision the facility as your loved one’s new home. If you feel comfortable with the surroundings, there is a good chance it could be a suitable fit.

Be sure of the care

The most important consideration you can make is related to care. Questions to ask surrounding care might be whether or not the facility has a registered nurse on 24/7, what doctors visit the site and how often, if there are any physiotherapists or other allied health professionals based on site and what the care staff ratio looks like.

Other important care considerations are those centered around mental and spiritual wellbeing. For example, RSL Care SA’s philosophy of care is The Janus Approach, which acknowledges residents are unique, with a variety of personal needs and preferences.

These considerations will help to build a list of your own questions. Focus on what is important to your loved one. From visiting hours and restrictions, to how often hairdressers are on site, can all make a difference when considering an appropriate home. Different people will find different things important, so it is essential to ask questions closely related to the individual and their preferences.

Many facilities offer a period of respite with a view to permanent stay, so you and your loved one can experience what living in a home will be like for them, before having to sign a permanent agreement.

While navigating the complexities of aged care can be difficult, keeping an open mind and being equipped with the appropriate information can help you make the right choice for your loved one.