Family Forum: Choosing an Aged Care Facility

Private versus public Aged Care Facilities…


Mum needs to go into a nursing home. What is better, for profit, not-for-profit, or government?


This is not an easy question to answer as there are many variables to consider before placing a relative such as your mother in a nursing home.

Firstly, their health must be considered. Is dementia present and if so, how severe is it? Some nursing homes are not set up for people with severe dementia because wandering is a risk.

Secondly, does she have her own GP and has the GP’s continued care been requested by her? Does she want to move closer to relatives or stay close to friends and the area she has lived in?

The cost of moving into a nursing home needs to be considered. The age of the nursing home is also an important factor. Some older nursing homes may not have single rooms with ensuites, although these are disappearing as nursing homes upgrade living conditions.

Lastly, selection of a nursing home depends on available vacancies in the area of choice. On visiting a nursing home, the first thing to take notice of is the smell. Does it smell clean? This is often a sign of cleanliness and good care. After all, this is to become the home of your mother.

Things to look for when you enter the home include gardens, an entertainment area, a shop and cafe, a dining area, good natural light and if not, are the lights turned on? Questions to ask the staff include are regular meetings held with the resident and family? What activities are provided for residents? Do they have a visiting GP and pharmacist? Ask about the staff-to-resident ratio.

Due to government regulations imposed on nursing homes, most now have senior registered nurses who are involved in doing paperwork. There may be younger registered nurses on the ward, along with enrolled nurses and carers. Ask whether agency nurses are used, as this can be problematic because they do not know residents as well as regular staff. See for more information.

All nursing homes undergo vigorous vetting by the Commonwealth Government. When problems are discovered, nursing homes are expected to resolve them or lose their licenses.

Over the years there have been issues with all of the different types of nursing homes: government, not-for-profit and profit, hence the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

The GP on our panel was also keen to share 10 popular tips for communicating with loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. He heard these words of wisdom from a former aged care manager and director of nursing in Adelaide, who suggested they could act as guidelines for working with residents in aged care. These are: Never argue, instead agree; Never reason, instead divert; Never shame, instead distract; Never lecture, instead reassure; Never say remember, instead reminisce; Never say “I told you”, instead repeat; Never say you can’t, instead say what you can do; Never demand, instead ask; Never condescend, instead encourage; Never force, instead reinforce.

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