1. Look for Quality Staff
The quality of the staff should absolutely be the number one factor in choosing a facility. Imagine walking into a potential care facility and finding that the staff are unfriendly, unclean, rude, and abrupt. These are the people caring for your family member and if they act a certain way towards you, the general public, consider how they treat the residents.
When evaluating the staff, you should try to answer the following:
- Are the staff “cheery” or “happy”?
- Do they walk around with the obvious appearance of hating their job?
- Are they dressed professionally, clean and tidy?
- Do they welcome you and the residents with the appropriate greeting and body language?
- Is there attitude towards the facilities directors of a professional and considerate manner?
Since it is easy for anyone to act friendly and personable, it is often easier to make a clear and fair assumption by spending a little time in the facility. It is important to prepare yourself with any questions you have, not just for the Director of the facility, but for the care staff as well. Spend some one on one time with the staff, ask them questions and observe their interaction with you and your family as well as the residents. Body language is the number one form of communication so keep an eye on the bodily language of the staff with their interactions and in their work environment.
2. Engagement and Activities
Each Residential Aged Care Facility should have a plan for Activities that are both group interactive and personally centered around each resident. It is the job of the facility to assess each resident to find out their needs and wants and use these ideas to plan their monthly activity calendar. Behind the scenes, the Activity Director is responsible for planning and preparing the Activity Calendar based on the needs of the residents as well as considering a program in accordance with the resident’s comprehensive assessment, the interests and the physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident. Read more about the responsibilities of an Activity Director here.
- Ask the facility which activities they implement on a daily basis and which holidays they celebrate with their residents. Also ask the facility if and how they use these activities to promote health, safety, daily living tasks, strength and flexibility, community engagement and resident togetherness.
- Always look at the menu the facility offers. Would you like to eat sandwiches and apple sauce for every lunch? Would you like to eat chicken nuggets and French fries for dinner every night? It is important that the facility has implemented a menu that not only satisfies the tastes of their residents but the nutritional components of each meal. Look at all of the nutritional values within each meal. Do the meals have enough protein, fat, fiber, iron? These are all important in providing the residents with their daily needs. In addition be sure and look at the cleanliness and organization of the kitchen. Ask the facility how they prepare each food and how they make sure food contamination is not present.
- Does the facility offer a physical therapy program, Restorative Nursing program, or regular exercise schedule? It is the responsibility of the resident’s doctor to prescribe a specific Physical Therapy plan, however, it is the responsibility of the facility and its staff to implement the plan. If there is no plan prescribed for a resident you should ask if the facility offers a regular exercise and range of motion plan. You can also ask to see their staff handbook and documentation log at any time.
3. The Community Environment
Does the facility fit in with your loved ones need and wants? Consider the specific location of the facility the layout of the facility, the services offered and the specific items in their bedroom. Does your loved one specifically want or need their own room or are they happy in a shared room? An important factor to consider is if the facility allows you to personalize your loved ones room. If the answer is NO, I would suggest you turn around and walk out. Remember that where your family members lives in THEIR home. It is THEIR room, THEIR living room, THEIR bathroom. Of course understand that the entire room or house cannot be changed dramatically, and some items are not in compliance with an Aged Care facility; however, it is your right to bring in items from home that are important to your loved one to make the place feel like their own.
Always imagine where your loved one has come from and what makes their home feel like their own. Ask them what they like in a facility, as well as what you would like in a facility when it’s time for you to make that decision for yourself.
It’s important to consider the décor:
- Is the room and facility bright and cheery?
- Is it clean and safe for a residential aged care facility?
- Does it fulfill the basic needs of the resident?
- Are there books and reading material?
- Is there an open space for the entire household to mingle together as a group?
- Does it look like a comfortable homely space or more like an institution?
When it is time for you to choose a facility for your loved one, always do your homework. Research all aspects of the facility and ask as many questions as you need. This is where your loved one will live, and you want to make sure it is somewhere that is safe and comfortable for them, yourself, and their visitors.