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Identifying quality aged care - a nurse's perspective

Identifying quality aged care - a nurse's perspect
Photo: Veronicah de Boer and team
Whether you're looking to move into an aged care facility or you're supporting a loved one in the transition – it's a difficult and often confusing decision. It's also challenging to seek employment in a quality aged care environment.

So, what does quality aged care look like? And how can you make sure you make the right choice? 

Registered nurse and midwife Veronicah de Boer, Clinical Director and Founder of Auscare Group WA, says there are many factors to consider when it comes to choosing an aged care facility.

"It's important to visit many aged care facilities and spend time to see the staff at work and interact with them before you make any decision.

"If it were a family member ¬– from a nurse's perspective – I'd want to see how the staff at a facility brings homely support and what they're like when they are supporting their clients."
Being prepared and asking the right questions of the administration and management team is also a vital step in navigating quality aged care, explains Ms de Boer.

"Ask about everything from the types of foods provided, as it would contribute to understanding how much care is placed on the health and wellbeing of residents, through to how they support and reward their staff. Great management will influence the carers' moral who in turn will provide the right care."

Residents should also be supported to enjoy a full life with the provision of social interaction and organised activities, explains Ms DeBoer.

"Investigate the opportunities for choice and engagement at facilities. Residents should have choices to enhance their days and quality of life.

"Find out what leisure and activities are available to engage their mental health, morale and keep their memory sharp."

Ms de Boer says her interest in aged care stemmed from work experience following her nursing degree and a desire to see older Australians provided the same level of care as a patient in a hospital.

"Seeing the changes in aged care with the Royal Commission has been amazing and a step in the right direction to improving quality of life – something everyone at whatever age should be afforded."

Fiona*, a registered general intellectual disability nurse, is passionate about aged care after managing quality processes for three large, aged care facilities.

"I decided to undertake general nursing to expand my medical experience, which led to further study in aged and community care, experience as a hospital coordinator and lecturer.

"I love aged care for the contribution I can make to improved choices for quality of life for older people.

"I recognise the important role older Australians play in society and strive to allow them to have a voice in their lives.

"I particularly enjoy hearing their individual stories of courage, resilience and joy."

When it comes to choosing quality aged care, Fiona* says baby boomers are an influential group most likely to enact change.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare predicts the proportion of older Australians will increase exponentially. By 2057, 22 per cent of the population will be aged 65 and over.

"Given this prediction, it is likely almost one-quarter of the Australian population will be voting with their feet, with or without walkers and wheelie frames, marching towards the best quality aged care homes on offer!

"Similarly, our rapidly ageing nurses and carers, with an average age 52, will have the competitive licence to work in high-quality homes that treat them well, as demand for aged nurses and carers increases and exceeds supply – even now – in alignment with the need for aged places in our residential aged care system."

So, what do people want in quality aged care? Fiona* says both carer and care recipient articulate choice and quality care as top priorities, which is reflected in the Australian Bureau of Statistics and aged care home data:

Independence is celebrated. People are encouraged and respected to speak up for their own and others' wellbeing. Assistance with cognitive and mobility is provide.

Privacy needs for residents in their choice of accommodation and staff have designated areas to work and relax.

Resident connection to family and friends is encouraged. Staff promote social interaction between themselves and residents.

Clean and tidy surroundings are maintained everyone to the best of their ability in addition to paid staff for this purpose.

Kind, compassionate, peaceful care is underpinned by nursing best practice. Ongoing education is encouraged and supported.

Staffing ratios remain responsive and sensitive to the changing care needs of the individual.

Responsive medical care remains considerate of personal treatment choices.

Nutritious, well-prepared meals of choice appropriate to health requirements are offered.

The ability to select preferred carers for residents and the right of staff not to provide care for specific groups, for example, for cultural reasons.

Multiple social and interactive programs are available, including interstate and travel support (and medical tourism where required).

Social integration into the wider community with transportation provided where needed.

Physical exercise and dietary advice. On-site amenities provided for residents and staff.

Integrated ageing 'in place' opportunities such as low through to high care and the ability to share accommodation with a personal life partner.

Spiritual, cultural and religious needs are accepted and supported. Residents and staff are encouraged but not mandated to participate in the community life of the home.

GLTBIQ+ person(s) are respected for gender and sexual choices. Difference is respected and celebrated.

The Australian public has much to look forward to in their choice of future residential aged care, says Fiona*.

"Increasingly, the voice of the ageing is being heard. Nurses, carers and those who choose their aged care environment have the opportunity to ride the tide of change in the choice of quality residential aged care. It's a time in our lifetime like no other for a great future in ageing."

*Name changed for privacy 

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