Thank you to ACC Guest Blogger: Dr Margaret Thorne
One of the most difficult times for many people is when they become concerned about the deteriorating health of their elderly parents or loved ones. At this time, it becomes necessary to seriously consider their future care and whether transitioning them into an aged care facility is an option.
Being involved in this transition process in a professional and personal capacity has enabled me to acquire a broad understanding of the emotional and physical issues involved for elderly people when they move into residential aged care, particularly after they have lived long and independent lives.
Parenting the parents
A poignant reminder for me of the difficulties faced by relocation to residential aged care relates to several years ago when I organised respite for my elderly parents for a few weeks. It was an emotional and overwhelming experience for all three of us when we walked through the doors of the facility on the first day and were duly welcomed by members of staff. At this time, my parents were struggling to cope in their home and I was concerned about their general wellbeing. Having a good understanding of residential aged care certainly helped me during this time, and after my parents became permanent residents, to reassure them and advocate for their specific needs when necessary.
I know that many other people have also been in this situation with an elderly relative or loved one and found that the most difficult task is finding the ‘right’ facility, while at the same time endeavouring to take into account their considerations and cultural backgrounds.
Choosing a residential aged care facility
Despite negative stories about the field that we often hear in the media or from other people, I have found that many aged care facilities are very pleasant environments where the elderly receive appropriate care and support by many passionate Personal Care Workers and nurses.
In previous blogs, I have touched on several issues and difficulties relating to loss and grief faced by the elderly when transitioning into residential aged care. However, in this blog, I am offering a short checklist based on my nursing, teaching, and personal experiences, which I consider important. Therefore, should the need arise I hope you find this information useful in choosing a facility for your loved ones.
Many elderly people prefer to remain within the surrounding areas of their previous communities so the location of an aged care facility is important. Loneliness for the elderly can be minimised to a certain extent if family members are considerate of their wishes as much as possible. It is important that elderly parents and loved ones continue to have opportunities to socialise with their family and friends.
- First impressions
From my experience, I consider it important that aged care facilities, which are in the business of providing care for residents, should have frontline receptionists always in attendance to provide a professional service for visitors, thereby presenting a welcoming and friendly reception environment.
Tidy and safe outdoor areas with gardens and walkways provide a pleasant environment for residents and their visitors to enjoy and can be therapeutic for older people who have always enjoyed their gardens.
- Put yourself in the elderly person’s shoes
Consider whether an aged care facility is ‘right’ for your elderly relative. Many older people prefer a homely environment, and something that they are accustomed to, so the latest and most modern facilities may not suit their tastes.
- Ask for a tour
Arrange to have an individual tour of facilities and have your specific list of questions ready. Some of your questions could relate to fees, daily and extra charges, dining room arrangements, food menus and choices, visiting hours, safety and security, range of lifestyle activities available, additional medical services, wireless Internet, and resident and family meetings.
- Speak to staff and residents
Speak to a few of the staff members individually. Observe the interaction between staff and how they relate and respond to residents. Have some conversations with residents, and their family members if possible, and ask them about their experiences.
Is this the ‘right’ aged care facility?
When you consider that you have found an aged care facility that may suit your elderly parent or loved one, visit again a couple of times at different times of the day, particularly if you have any further questions or lingering concerns.
Finally, if possible and you have not done so already, take your elderly parent or loved one with you to the aged care facility to assist in allaying any of their fears before they relocate.
To read more from Dr Thorne: Death and Dying in Residential Aged Care | Ethno-specific & mainstream care | The face of multiculturalism in residential aged care | A glimpse into their world | Communities of Practice – what are they?
Dr Margaret Thorne successfully completed a PhD in the Faculty of Education at Monash University (Victoria, Australia) at the end of 2015. The title of Margaret’s research is ‘Work and life in residential aged care’. As Australia’s population is ageing, this research relating to the perceptions of Personal Care Workers and residents is both timely and important. Margaret’s passion relating to residential aged care developed as a result of nursing, teaching, research and personal experiences in the field for many years. These experiences provided Margaret with the inspiration to consider how Personal Care Workers and residents interact and work with each other in busy and demanding working and living environments by providing them with opportunities to have a voice. Since completing her PhD, Margaret looks forward to contributing to future directions in education and research by exchanging ideas and sharing insights with other educators and researchers in residential aged care facilities, training organisations, and the wider national and global community. As well as ongoing work-related research, writing, and attending conferences, Margaret enjoys reading an assortment of books, travel, bushwalking, and family activities.