The task of finding a place in an aged care facility – for yourself or, more commonly, for a loved one – can seem daunting, particularly with negative stories emerging from the current Royal Commission into aged care.

Generally, people start considering residential aged care when independent living becomes too difficult. This often comes after a medical crisis of some kind; for example, an injury sustained from a fall at home or advancing dementia.

The first thing to consider is location. It may be better for someone to live in the suburb they know or, perhaps, in a different suburb close to family. In most cases, people in residential care do not venture out on their own so, if they are living close to family, it can be easier to arrange regular visits and outings. It’s also worth considering if the location will encourage easy drop-ins from extended family, such as grandchildren, and friends.

It is crucial to visit a residential home before you make a decision, as they vary significantly. A residence that meets the needs of one person will not necessarily meet the needs of someone else.

Consider what is important to the person whose home it will become. Is a garden important? If so, avoid a home which only has small courtyard areas. Are large social gatherings important?  Consider one that has large communal areas. Are they a private person? Consider the location of the room and its size.

Which home is going to be the best really depends on the individual, what is important to them and their support network. Talk to the staff – do they engage? How does it smell – is it like home?

Ultimately, it is important to go with your gut – if it does not feel right; it probably isn’t the right home to choose. Ensure that you find the right home, rather than simply accept the first placement.  As much as hospitals are not the best place for older people, there are also residential homes that may not suit.

There are some wonderful residences around: it is just a matter of taking the time to work out the main features that will make it the best home for your loved one.