Can we leave? The top 10 most asked questions from aged care residents

Entering your loved one into an aged care home can be a huge decision for some families, and not all seniors are happy about the transition. However, many people are quite surprised by the lifestyle they can lead when entering an aged care home – your mum, dad, or loved one may even have a more active social life than you!

Having said that, there are still a lot of questions that come to light when thinking about the transition to aged care. At Care360, we often get asked what the aged care experience is really like – so we have compiled this list of the top 10 questions about aged care. Some of them may surprise you! 

1. Can I leave an aged care home?

Yes!

There are a number of different types of leave for aged care residents which includes: pre-entry leave, social leave, hospital leave, transition care leave or emergency leave.

Pre-entry leave is for new and transferring residents and allows them seven days to secure their place in the aged care home and prepare for their move. It is only available if the room is ready and the resident will only be charged the basic daily fee while on pre-entry leave. 

Social leave is classified as an overnight stay away from the home and aged care residents are entitled to 52 days a year. Many residents choose to use their social leave every week and spend the weekend with loved ones. Residents can take more social leave if they wish, however, the government doesn’t pay the subsidy for those days. 

When it comes to hospital leave, there is an unlimited number of days allocated. If the resident must be in hospital for 30 consecutive days or more, they may still be responsible for fees and accommodation costs; however, the income-tested fee may be decreased during this time. 

Transition care, where residents get extra help after a hospital stay, is available to all residents who live in Government-funded residential care homes. While on transition care leave, the resident continues paying fees and daily accommodation costs.

Emergency leave could occur during a disaster (natural or otherwise), an epidemic and a pandemic.

While on emergency leave, residents won’t use any of their social leave entitlements, nor will they lose their place at their aged care home.

2. Can my spouse live with me in an aged care home?

In some cases, yes.

For some, the thought of being without their significant other for the first time in possibly decades is a difficult one. Being without their partner could be traumatic or cause distress and health issues for your loved one. It can also result in sadness, anger and guilt on the partner who doesn’t need aged care. 

Thankfully, some aged care homes will have accommodation available for couples who wish to continue living together, in a double room or an interconnected room, specifically designed for this very purpose. 

According to research by the University of New England, a third of Australians living in residential aged care are married or partnered, so it’s not uncommon to see couples living together in aged care.

3. Can I bring my pet to an aged care home?

It depends.

Our furry friends are part of the family, so it’s understandable that some aged care residents would want to bring their cat or dog with them into their new home. 

Many studies have found a positive link between pets and health and ageing. Pets are known to improve wellbeing, companionship, a sense of purpose, physical activity, social interaction, independence and more so taking the family pet along can be good for all involved. 

Some aged care homes allow you to bring your pet, some restrict the types of pets allowed and others don’t allow them at all. Many aged care homes offer pets as therapies, but this might not be quite the same.

If your loved one is unable to take their pet, they may want to arrange for their pet to be adopted or taken care of by a family member or friend. If this is the case, they could then visit their furry friend while enjoying their social leave.

4. Will I have any privacy in aged care?  

Yes.

When you are choosing the aged care home for your loved one, you will have the option to choose from a variety of different room options such as a shared room, a single room or a private suite. Depending on what kind of room your loved one wants and is available will determine the level of privacy they will enjoy.

Regardless, all aged care residents have the right to privacy, even if they are being assisted with tasks like showering and changing clothing. Healthcare workers are expected to ensure the residents privacy and modesty are protected and to discuss private and personal issues with discretion. 

5. Can I have visitors in aged care? 

Yes.

Keeping connected with friends and family is a key predictor of wellbeing in aged care so aged care homes support visits for residents. In 2020, some additional restrictions were applied given the vulnerability of aged care residents to COVID.

Visitors can expect to be asked to provide contact details and undertake hand hygiene when entering and leaving the home and on entering and leaving the resident’s room or the visiting area. They will be encouraged to either stay in your loved one’s room or go to an outdoor space or alternative room where you can ensure you keep your distance from other residents. Visitors may be encouraged to wear a mask in certain cases. It’s best to contact the aged care home to see their individual approach.

6. Can I stay connected with my family and friends when in an aged care home? 

Yes.

Living in the age of technology means there is the possibility to connect with friends and family all over the world. Some aged care homes provide iPads or tablets to ensure residents can regularly connect with their families.

7. Can I begin a relationship in an aged care home?

Yes.

Relationships are crucial at all stages of life, and for older people and those who are in intimate relationships report higher levels of wellbeing than those who aren’t partnered according to the University of New England

As long as the residents are consenting to the relationship, they have the right to be engaged in a romantic relationship and should be supported by staff at the aged care home.

8. Can I drink alcohol or smoke in an aged care home?

Yes.

Ideally, residents will be free to make their own choices when it comes to having a few glasses of wine or a cigarette. In some cases, it may be against doctors’ wishes where there is a health risk or nurses may control access to matches or lighters if there are safety concerns. 

Some aged care homes have happy hour and serve beer and wine with lunch or dinner. Pre COVID, they may have events with family and friends in attendance where alcohol is available. 

Some aged care homes are smoke-free, while others will have designated outdoor smoking areas.

9. Do I have a curfew in an aged care home? 

No – but you do have to keep the aged care home informed. 

Residents can usually take as much day leave as they wish – as long as their health allows. However, it is important they inform their care team so they are aware of when they will and won’t be in the aged care home. 

The aged care home has a responsibility to care for the wellbeing of their residents, especially those who may be more vulnerable than others. Knowing their whereabouts helps ensure the required level of care. 

10. Can I talk to someone when I am in aged care?

Yes.

According to a review by the National Ageing Research Institute on behalf of Beyond Blue, older Australians in residential aged care homes are more likely to experience problems with their mental health than those living independently.

The government now has a budget for psychological services for older Australians in residential care to address this issue. In NSW, for example, there is Older People’s Mental Health Services or OPMH services which provide care to older people with mental health problems. 

Summary

While some seniors may feel nervous about losing their independence and freedom, in many cases the reality can be far different. Restrictions may need to be in place for their safety and protection, but that doesn’t mean those in aged care are unable to experience all that life has to offer at this stage in their life. 

Care360 is the only independent service that allows you to find the right aged care home quickly and easily. We have made it our mission to provide independent, reliable and trustworthy information so you can transition your loved one to aged care with the confidence you’re making an informed decision. 

Find out more about finding the right aged care home for your loved one here.

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