The transition journey into residential care

Posted on Tuesday, September 14, 2021

“It was so very hard letting go and trusting anyone else to look after them.”

The writer had recently helped their loved one move into one of Brightwater’s aged care homes. They were having feelings that were very new to them but not to our team.

“You manage a lot of emotion about the whole decision to place somebody in care. For me it’s just about being there, listening to what their fears are. It’s about acknowledging that it’s all very real because life as you knew it today is not going to be the same as tomorrow.”

Michael Bowran hears a range of emotions in his role with Brightwater’s Client Engagement Services. His team manages the application process for Brightwater’s residential aged care homes and they know how critical it is to build trust. 

“The person you talk to is struggling with the whole idea of their loved one going into residential care - they never thought they’d get to that point. And so for us it’s just acknowledging that, supporting that and just helping them along our process.”  Michael Bowran

For some, the process of transition begins long before the move itself, with plenty of time to prepare. For others, a health crisis or sudden change in living arrangements can mean there is pressure to make a decision quickly.

Michael says there are things that can be done in advance to make the process easier when the time comes. The first two steps are the most important and working through them early will reduce the stress of transition.

First, Michael suggests applying for approval to be admitted to residential aged care. This is a free assessment done through the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). It can be undertaken before a move is necessary. There is no need for a referral - simply contact My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 to begin the process. Once the assessment has been done, ACAT can provide an approval letter and support plan.

Next, it helps to have a good understanding of the costs involved in residential aged care and how much could be covered by government funding.  This will depend on the financial circumstances of each individual. Start by assembling details of all assets and income, then contact My Aged Care for assistance in working out the fees and charges.

Once these two steps are completed and an application for a place has been made, Brightwater’s Client Engagement Coordinators arrange to visit the prospective client - either at their home, in hospital or in transitional care. Michael Bowran says Brightwater’s process of client visits, not something all providers do, is another way to help families begin adjusting to a new future.

“I always encourage people to start looking around and think about what are the things you want to bring to make that room homely for that person. And that helps a little bit. If the new resident is able to, encourage them to be part of that process. Then you’re making it about them.” Michael Bowran

A visit to the chosen residential care home is also a good way to begin picturing what this new stage will look like. These tours are a chance to view the sites and speak to staff, as well as to see how the new room might be made more homely with personal effects and small items of furniture.

Closer to the move, focusing on short-term tasks can help distract from the enormity of the change. Michael recommends, where possible, that carers and family members reach out for support through this process.

“Identify a support network, from a local support network – this could be somebody else living at home (apart from the person requiring care) or a close friend.”

And when the day of the move comes, it’s important to remember that this is a new chapter for everyone.

“The staff are very good at helping the family to transition as well, particularly when we are assisting couples and one is left at home and one is coming into care. I tell people, this is about you as well and you need to be part of that transition.”