Helping a loved one make the move into an aged care home can be an emotional journey with many complexities and big decisions. We know aged care can be challenging to navigate, and knowing what questions to ask and when, can help make this transition a little bit easier on you and your family.
Did you know more than 50% of people living in aged care in Australia have dementia?
Our top 12 questions will provide helpful tips on what to look for when you’re searching for aged care including dementia care environments. Of course, price is an important factor when considering the options, and this will differ for every family and situation, but there are some other questions which your aged care provider should be able to answer with certainty.
Question 1. Does this feel like home?
Research shows that the physical design of a residential aged care environment may play an important role in the well-being of residents, particularly those living with dementia. A home-like environment promotes feelings of belonging, encourages connection and relationships between people. As you walk through your loved ones’ new home, the kinds of things you should be looking for are home-like features. You should be able to see the familiarity of each room, whether this is a lounge area, kitchen or a bedroom, as opposed to a long corridor with bedrooms either side.
Keep an eye out for personal items. It is common to see family photographs, photo albums, newspapers and books in your own home. Are there personal items in their new home?
Question 2. What does your loved one’s new home sound like?
This may not be a question for your provider but perhaps for yourself. The sound of a home is very important to create a sense of comfort in your loved ones’ new home. Can you hear laughter, conversations between people, and music, rather than the sound of trolleys and call bells? Do you prefer spaces that are busy, or spaces that are quiet? Are there quiet spaces for people to read, and spaces for people to connect? Seeing an aged care home before your loved one moves in is critical, and while you’re there, take in all the sounds you are surrounded by.
Dementia care tip: Stimulating the senses can positively or negatively impact on a resident’s mood, behaviour and sleep patterns. Environments that focus on the 5 senses can be part of providing person centered care to a resident with dementia. Look for a home that has similar sounds to your loved one’s own home.
Question 3. How many people live here?
When living in an aged care environment, the ability to connect with others through conversations and interaction, at different times of the day, is essential. Which is why it is important to have multiple shared living areas that facilitate different social activities. However, too many residents in one common area can feel like a human parking lot. If you’re standing in an aged care facility, how many people can you see sitting in one area? What are they doing while sitting there? Are they able to connect with one another? For social interaction to be right for your loved one, ask your aged care provider to share how they decide who lives in that environment.
Question 4. Do residents have their own personalised routine?
As we age, we become less adaptable and more set in our ways. Moving into aged care your loved one stands the risk of having their routine, moulded into the facilities routines. Can your loved one maintain their own routine? Do they have a say in the time you wake up and go to sleep? The care staff should be aware of your loved ones’ preferences, prior to moving in so that the transition is as smooth and as comfortable as possible. How does your loved ones’ routine get shared with the care staff and ensure that it is being followed? A one size fits all approach to care doesn’t always suit everyone, and personal preference needs to be considered when planning a resident’s day.
Question 5. How do the carers know what is purposeful and meaningful to each resident?
Is there an assessment process that explores my loved ones’ life story? How does the information from the assessment get translated into their day to day life at the facility? An assessment process that determines likes, dislikes, hobbies, past interests and profession is important for the carers to get to know the unique personality of an individual. This can be implemented in a simple way, such as music or tv choice within the home. While you’re in the facility, what music is being played? Is it the preference of the resident or the staff?
Although routine and purposeful engagement are important when living in an aged care environment, it is also important that the resident is able to participate in purposeful and meaningful activities that they find interesting and are engaged in.
Question 6. Can my loved one personalise their bedroom and their living space?
In your own home, you have your own furniture, your own photos and your own belongings. As we age, we cherish these things more, and these can be especially important to those living with dementia. Visual prompts of family photos and cherished items allows a person to reminisce and have validation and sense of self. This can occur not just in a personal space, like a bedroom, but also in a communal space. As you’re standing in the facility, do you see personal items in the communal spaces? Like a photo album or a wedding photo.
Question 7. The experience around meal times
Food is important to everyone. Not just the quality of the food but the experience around meal times. This includes the smells of food, the conversation around the dining table, the preparation of the food, setting the table, and sometimes, cleaning up after meals. There are number of questions that should be asked when it comes to meal times in your loved ones new home.
What does the home smell like? Smells and sounds are extremely important to a home environment. When you walk into your loved one’s new home, take a deep breath in. What do you smell? Can you smell baking, cooking, flowers? Does it smell like a home or a hospital?
Will there be someone else at the table making conversation during meal times? Can residents choose what time they eat and participate in meal choice?
Question 8. What are your staff ratios and staff policy’s?
As there are currently no laws in Australia surrounding staff ratios in nursing homes or retirement villages, there is no obligation for aged care providers to have a high carer to resident ratio. This means that in some cases, residents can be overlooked or not given the required attention they may need. A care ratio of 1 carer to 5 residents is considered a good ratio. Anything above this could be concerning. Some follow up questions to this may be:
- What is your staff ratio?
- Do you use agency staff? The use of agency staff can be quite unsettling to a care environment as they are a strange face.
- Are your staff full time or part time? Having continuity of staff is reassuring when living within an aged care environment.
- Observe, are there a lot of staff? What is the movement of staff? Equipment? Trolleys?
- Do your staff wear uniforms? The use of uniforms for care staff can be confronting in an aged care or dementia care environment, as it takes the home-like feeling out of the environment, making it quite clinical.
Question 9. What type of training do your staff have?
Aged care and dementia care are constantly changing as we find new ways to help care for your loved ones. Although experience can be valuable, specific training and ongoing training is extremely important to aged care, especially when considering dementia care. Ask your aged care provider what type of training they provide for their staff. When listening to the answer they provide, keep in mind that mandatory training is not considered specialised training. Mandatory training can include infection control, manual handling and fire safety training. The type of training you should be listening for is education that goes above and beyond mandatory training, this includes person-centred care, dementia care and ongoing care training.
Question 10. What are the visiting hours?
What are the visiting hours, and how flexible are they? The same way you would visit your loved one in their home at any time of the day, feeling welcomed in their new home at any time is an important thing to consider.
Question 11. What type of communication will I receive from the facility? How often can I expect feedback from the team and who is my point of contact?
Often, families will receive clinical reporting about their loved one. This often occurs when there is a fall, or a medical deterioration. In these cases, the registered nurse contacts families. In order to keep up to date with what your loved one is doing, their progress and engagement, including positive weekly feedback from the care delivery staff is recommended.
Question 12. Can my loved one age in place or, under what circumstances would my loved one have to move out?
When you move into an aged care home, we understand the transition can be challenging, and settling into a new environment and this can take time. This transition can be made more stressful for your loved one if there is uncertainty about whether they are staying. Ask your aged care provider if they can ‘age in place’, rather than being asked to move out if their care needs increase. A helpful follow up to this question is asking under what circumstances would my loved one be asked to move out, if any? Every move as a person ages can be challenging. Moving and changing living environments multiple times can make this process harder.
Is it time to consider permanent care?
There is never a right or wrong answer to this question. Our “Question and Answers” are for people living with dementia and for the loved ones supporting them as they consider permanent care, residential aged care, home and community care or a nursing home. Please connect and share your details and take our Q&A to help you decide what to do next.
If we can assist with answering any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact our Engagement Manager for support on 1300 015 406
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