Escient Associate Director, Michael Bennett, shares his very personal experience in choosing residential care for his very independent mother. Exploring the practical and emotional experience he provides some poignant insights for settling a special person in care.
My elderly mother has always expressed a great desire for independence, and we collectively agreed as a family that staying in her own home for as long as possible was the goal. She’d lived alone for decades and wasn’t willing to change without a compelling reason.
The journey isn’t an easy one for those of us navigating through government-funded aged care services. The first step is to sign-up via the Australian government’s myagedcare gateway via the web site or call centre. Having power of attorney was important to ensure I could act on her behalf.
We started using the services provided by the local council financed by the Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP). The first service arranged for my mum was assistance showering three days per week.
Subsequently she needed more complex support in her own home using a Home Care Package (HCP). We were glad we’d arranged an early assessment from the Aged Care Assessment Service (ACAS). There was a very long queue of those waiting for packages, and in our case, it took 20 months to get any money at all. It was very important to learn how the process works and how best to push your case through the system. My mother needed daily help and despite being the second highest level 3 package, it was only sufficient for services one hour a day throughout the year.
The ACAS had also allowed for the potential use of respite care and permanent residential care, which was essential when my mother started having frequent falls. This forced us to consider that she may be safer in residential care than in her own home. A trip to hospital following a fall really forced this difficult decision, and we arranged a three-week period of respite care. This became a ‘try before you buy’ situation, so we put considerable effort in assessing the best accommodation for her.
We went on a tour of three facilities that were within the budget. The financial part of residential care has three components and it requires much thought to decide the best approach. I found the book ‘Aged Care – the complete Australia Guide’ via Kobo e-book to be very helpful with good advice and strategies. The latest edition is from 2016 but is still relevant (with increases to fees & charges).
“While locality was the starting point, and assessing the facilities important, it was the quality of staff that was critical. “
Being taken on a tour of the facility and being able to ask questions of carers allowed us to determine which facility was best for us. It wasn’t marble bathrooms or similar that was important but that we could trust the people providing care. In my mother’s residence I met many carers who had been there for many years and obviously were happy to be there.
Our initial impressions have been validated in the months since, with my mother’s cogitative ability really improving with oversight of medications, good food and the companionship that the residence provides.
In the final analysis, the Aged Care residence we chose obviously cared – not only for residents but for their employees. We knew this was a safe haven and one which would also engage with us in making sure my mother was comfortable and happy.