Finding out which of the aged care living options is right for your ageing parent can be daunting. With so many different services available, how do we know what is the right aged care option? The important thing to understand is that despite all the different names for things, there are three main aged care living options:
1. Stay at home
2. Live in a retirement village
3. Move into residential care (This includes low-level residential care, sometimes known as hostels; and high-level residential care, sometimes known as nursing homes).
In reality, there are more than three options, such as having your parents move in with you or live in a granny flat or with other relatives. There’s also respite care which gives carers a break, or a transition from hospital to home, while advanced health or dementia care might require other solutions. But in this article, we’ll deal with the three main choices.
The aged care living options available will depend on the type of assistance your parent needs and your parent’s financial capacity. While the government subsidises residential care, your parents’ savings may determine their access to certain facilities. (See the article Is it worth selling my home if I’m going into aged care article for more information on funding their residential aged care place).
As your parents’ needs progress, choices about living arrangements might be needed more than once. If you believe that the progression will occur relatively quickly over the next few years, you may want to consider an “ageing in place home” where different levels of care are provided at one location.
Access to aged care living arrangements, including a stay at home services, is determined by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) or ACAS (in Victoria). ACATs are health professionals who provide information, advice and assistance to older people who are having difficulty at home. They assess your parent and their eligibility for government-subsidised services. This is explained in more detail in our dedicated article on ACATs.
Let’s go through the main aged care living options.
1. Stay at home
Many parents strongly prefer to stay at home. This is often an excellent option if they are still fit, healthy and capable of looking after themselves. It provides independence, continuity and if you’re lucky to still have both your parents, keeps them together. Even if they aren’t very fit and healthy, with the right support systems in place, it’s still a great option and often the one most people prefer.
Staying at home doesn’t mean your parent needs to do it without support. There are many governments and private services that can help to keep your parent at home as long as possible. If your parents require any of these services to be provided by government or community organisations, they will need an ACAT. If your parents receive private services for which they pay themselves without a government subsidy, an ACAT won’t be necessary.
2. Live in a retirement village
If your parent would like to still live independently but would like to be in a community setting, living in a retirement village could be the right choice for them. Retirement villages are for those aged 55 years and over where residents are provided with independent accommodation with some shared facilities. The facilities vary but can include a library, recreational area, pool or tennis courts.
The village might also provide social activities such as organised excursions, crafts, games such as cards, board games or dominos, or lifestyle services such as hairdressers, beauticians or visiting doctors. Retirement village units can range in size from studio apartments up to four bedrooms, allowing for a couple and guests.
Some retirement villages also allow pets. Retirement villages can provide safety, security and support. There are staff on-site, although they are not necessarily health professionals, so it’s best to check if they match your parents’ needs. Note that retirement villages do not provide for high-level needs and are not subsidised by the government. They are privately owned and operated either by commercial or community organisations.
If moving into a retirement village, it pays to do your research and get advice as to the funding arrangements and contract. Retirement villages are regulated on a state by state basis and each have their own fees and charges.
3. Move into residential care
There are many levels of residential care – the trick is finding one that best suits your parent’s needs. Residential care services are usually subsidised by the Federal Government, therefore you will need an ACAT assessment to access them. They provide different levels of care. Some aged care residences aim to provide the full spectrum of services for the elderly in one location.
Aged care residences can provide:
1. Accommodation – Residences can have private rooms (many with ensuites), whilst higher level care places may resemble hospital wards, with several beds in one room, to provide greater nursing assistance.
2. Personal care – Care with bathing, dressing, continence management, eating and getting around
3. Food – Meals are provided and can be eaten in a common dining room or in private residential rooms, depending on the policy. Consideration should be given to whether a home caters for dietary, cultural or religious eating requirements.
4. Laundry – Clothing and bedding are laundered.
5. Nursing and care staff – Depending on the level of care required, the home will have staff on hand to assist. This could be a level of basic care all the way up to 24-hour nursing care.
6. Social programs – Many homes offer group activities including excursions, games, singing groups, or movie screenings. This is an opportunity for the residents of the home to socialise – a key benefit of moving into an aged care residence.
Some homes offer extra services (for a fee) such as higher quality accommodation, manicures or pedicures, and gourmet food. If your parent has specific needs related to dementia or palliative care, you will need to find a home that offers those services.
Aged care homes are regulated by The Australian Aged Care Quality Agency. It is responsible for the accreditation and quality review of aged care residential and home care services however it does not investigate individual complaints. This is managed by the Aged Care Complaints Scheme. You can search for the particular aged care home you are interested in and check its accreditation on the Australian Aged Care Quality Agency website. Note if it passes, that this doesn’t mean there haven’t been any incidents at the facility, it just means that the incidents haven’t met the strict criteria of the Agency. This is an area of aged care that is being reformed following the outcome of the Royal Commission into Aged Care.
As discussed earlier, depending on your choice of the three above, you will either need an ACAT assessment and/or need to start looking for a place for your parent to live. Both staying at home with support We’ve also included some useful links below to get you started.
Some useful links:
Is it worth selling my house if I’m going into aged care? Here’s what you need to consider. – https://carerscircle.com.au/2021/06/24/is-it-worth-selling-my-house-if-im-going-into-aged-care/
A government website providing all sorts of useful information about aged care options in Australia. Of particular note is the aged home care finder page. – www.myagedcare.gov.au
The telephone service is also helpful 1800 200 422 – www.myagedcare.gov.au/service-finders
A commercial directory of aged care homes in Australia. – www.agedcareguide.com.au
A commercial directory of retirement villages in Australia. – www.retirerealestate.com.au
Australian Aged Care Quality Agency website to check whether the residential care place you are reviewing meets standards. – www.aacqa.gov.au
Victorian Department of Consumer Affairs website with useful consumer information on retirement villages. – www.consumer.vic.gov.au/housing-and-accommodation/retirement-villages/choosing-a-retirement-village/what-is-a-retirement-village
NSW Department of Consumer Affairs website with useful consumer information on retirement villages. – www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au/ftw/Tenants_and_home_owners/Retirement_villages.page
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