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What to consider when deciding on a nursing home

There are a number of important considerations you need to take into account when deciding on which aged care home will best suit your needs and lifestyle.

Key points:

  • What the aged care facility looks like on first visit can be a good indicator of whether it is well kept and safe

  • Talk to residents and ask them for pros and cons about the home

  • Find a facility that offers activities that match your interests

Woman participating in activities with other residents.
Making the move into a nursing home is a big decision and it can take time to find a nursing facility that feels like home. [Source: iStock]

Making the move into an aged care facility is a big decision and it can take time and effort to find a nursing home that feels like home.

It is a good idea to create a basic list of your preferences and what you require, such as the type of care you need, and a list of lifestyle options, like if the facility has a religious background or involves a lot of outside activities.

Additionally, when visiting nursing homes, you need to be able to confidently say that you feel comfortable and safe within the facility.

First impressions are everything

When you tour an aged care facility, the first thing you will notice is the environment and design of the facility.

You should make a note about whether the home is clean, fresh and in good repair. This may give you an idea of what it may be like living in the facility.

Even the layout is important, living in a "rabbit" warren of corridors can be confusing. You don't want to get lost in your new home.

Another thing to take into consideration is whether the home is secure and what security is available. A good indicator is keypad locks on doors or CCTV cameras around the home. 

Sometimes, homes may have a keypad on a door, but there is a displayed sign with the code to exit the building. This can indicate that this precaution is for keeping residents with dementia safe.

The staff member taking you on the tour of the facility will show you common areas, like living rooms or dining areas. When in a common area, take in the vibe of the room. Are residents chatting with each other? Have residents been left unattended in their seats or are there staff nearby. 

The atmosphere in common areas can give you a good idea of what the community is like within the home.

If you have time, chat with some of the residents and see how they feel about the facility and what they like about it. There is no better person to talk to about a nursing home than the people living there.

Deciding on an aged care facility can be difficult, but the room should be a good indication of whether the home is right for you.

What to consider:

  • Is there a lot of space

  • Is the bathroom separate or shared?

  • Does the room feel homely or clinical? 

  • Is this a shared room with other residents or just for one person?

  • What about sharing with my spouse? Is that possible?

  • Does the room have a private phone line, internet or TV?

  • What furniture is supplied, what would you need to bring, and is there storage for your own clothes?

Another important question to ask the facility is whether this room is available to age in place, or whether you may be moved to a different room or ward if your care needs increase over time.

Staff and community

Staff members of a facility are the face of the home. They are providing care and making sure your time in aged care is as comfortable as possible.

So you need to make sure that the staff are friendly and warm when speaking with you, this can give you a good indication around if you would feel comfortable communicating and receiving care from them.

Take note of how you are greeted when you enter the facility. Is staff welcoming and friendly or is it hard to get the attention of staff at the reception desk?

Ask your tour guide some questions around staffing levels during the day and at night, as well as the mix of care skills available through the staff.

If you require additional care, like physiotherapy, it can be good to ask whether there are any doctors or care professionals that are in partnership with the facility and how often they visit.

And if the facility doesn't have those partnerships, does the aged care provide transport to take you to appointments outside of the home?

Other vital information you should know is around how complaints are handled at the facility.

If at any point you feel that the care you are receiving is inadequate or doesn't make you feel safe, you need to know who can help you and be assured that you can have the problem fixed as soon as possible.

It is always good to know that your provider will support you in every way possible and is open to receive complaints and criticism.

Activities and leisure

Atmosphere and vibe can really tell a thousand words when visiting a facility.

Usually, if residents are happy and chatty, they probably are having an enjoyable time while living there.

All aged care facilities have different amenities and activities that can make them stand out from each other.

Some nursing homes have specific religious backgrounds that you may align with.

Holistic and religious care is really important to older Australian's wellbeing, especially if you also have a cultural or religious background.

Religious services, like churches, mosques or cathedrals, may have been your Sunday routine. In most aged care facilities, usually those services are available on site. But it's essential to see what the home offers in regards to religious ceremonies.

Food is also a critical part of living in a nursing home because nutrition is so vital to ageing well and healthy. Not only nutrition, but taste. 

Enjoying your food is also essential at a new nursing home. If you ask, while on a tour visit, you may be able to test out some of the food on offer and find out how they choose between meals.

Some facilities may utilise a catering service offsite while others have a full culinary team making food every day.

Finding out about the available meal service is also important around flexibility of those meals and whether they can meet any special food requirements, allergies or intolerances you may have.

When living in a nursing home, you may believe you will have little to keep you entertained, but all facilities try to provide a vast array of activities, clubs, and shows to keep their residents happy and engaged.

It's a good idea to learn more about what is available at the home and whether any of your own interests line up with the activities and groups on offer at the facility.

Also important for your wellbeing are outdoor areas and gardens, especially if you enjoy walks or gardening.

Additionally, gardens are a great place to catch up with family and friends. You need to know if the facility has other spaces like the garden for meeting with loved ones and celebrating events.

If you like pets, find out if the home is pet friendly. This is even more important if you already have a pet. Otherwise, check to see if this facility has pets at the home already or utilises a visiting pet program. 

Other services that can really enhance your experience in aged care include hairdressing salons, on-site cafe or bistro, day spa or mini cinema, or outing arrangements and community connections, like with local schools. 

What are you looking for in a new aged care home? Let us know in the comments below.

Related content: 

Moving into a home
Placement consultants
Urgent admission into aged care

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