By Paul Geisel, Aged Care Specialist
I guess the old saying “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is true with many providers in most industries in the modern world, and aged care is no different.
I think we believe that most providers have the best intention and will generally strive to deliver on their promises and value offerings to the best of their ability. The care industry simply by its name would suggest that ‘care’ is of the utmost importance. Or is it?
I’d like to share with you my own personal experience where I questioned the care shown, and chose to do something about it.
My father in law was living in independent living (Retirement Village) for the past 20 years. He was very capable on his own, receiving only occasional visits from a Blue Care worker who would assist with his laundry.
A stay in hospital last year, followed by a complete loss of confidence, necessitated his transition to Residential Aged Care. Luckily for him, this area is my domain and is something I am definitely confident in handling and managing on behalf of the family, so, following my research and recommendations, he was moved to an aged care home close to our residence which seemed to tick all the boxes we were seeking on his behalf.
A very modern glass and timber building with an inviting aroma of freshly brewed coffee welcomed us on arrival (the offer to “please help yourself to the free muffins and biscuits” was definitely a tick from me!). A modern 22m2 room with his own private balcony and ensuite, what more could he want? Access to an onsite library, hairdressing salon, TV and computer room, modern lounges and dinning rooms completed the very impressive make up of this home.
I guess the only other requirement which was implied and that we couldn’t physically see applied at the beginning was CARE. And we were none the wiser about this small detail until the cracks became to surface.
Left in his room on his own for far too long, constant phone calls seeking advice on his health and requests for possible solutions, TV remote misplaced, room cleaned weekly as opposed to daily, general cleanliness was tardy, towels not replaced, tissues not replaced and appropriately marked clothing disappeared never to be found again, or eventually returned displaying a colour not seen by man kind previously. I can go on, but for the sake of my blood pressure, I won’t.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for us was when we were invited to a special morning tea for all residents. On arrival (we were 10 mins late), my father in law was found not in the dining hall with the others, but still in his room, slumped in his wheel chair, unshaven, still in his pyjamas, no teeth and no glasses (and nor could they be located).
The distressed state that my wife was in following this experience was enough for me, and, in this land where we are encouraged to vote with our feet, that is exactly what we did.
After giving 7 days notice to the home, we were off to greener pastures where the sun did shine, the staff did care and my father in law began to prosper and continues to do so (so much so that he’s actually started putting on weight).
The RAD followed close behind (another 7 days approx.) and we are living happily ever after.
So why am I sharing this with you?
Because, sometimes despite all the knowledge and expertise (and I’d like to think that I have both of these), things don’t always go to plan, and, contrary to what many people might think (or many homes lead you to believe), you actually don’t have to put up with it, and there is definitely something you can do to change it. It may involve a bit of work and revisiting the financial position to see what those options look like, but… at the end of the day, there are options.
Here is a list of the important aspects (from my perspective) to look at before selecting a Residential Aged Care Facility:
Seek input form existing residents and their families
Check for Federal Government Accreditation
Are meals prepared on site or off site?
What is the ratio of skilled staff to care recipients (New legislation is on the way)
Understand the laundry procedures. How do you safe guard against loss or damage?
How often is there a full clean of the rooms?
Does the facility maintain full occupancy?
Do they lose residents to other facilities?
What is their daily procedure for residents with false teeth and glasses (don’t laugh – those things are expensive to replace!)
Ensure that the ‘extra services’ promised are actually delivered
What is the handover procedure from night time staff to daytime staff and vice versa?
I am sure there are many more to consider however the above is a fair guide to get you started and allow you to be more comfortable with your selection.
It is a simple process to move from one facility to another and it is also your right should you be unable to have your concerns addressed professionally and in a timely manner by the current facility.
I should also point out that the majority of facilities I visit have a very keen resident centric value based offering, the staff are well trained and happy, and the importance of making both the resident and the family feel at home is paramount.