Canberra winters can be cruel, but for someone waiting for a bed in a residential aged care facility the cold weather may have been their salvation.
Most of Canberra’s 30 aged care facilities are used to long waiting lists and to turning away people who need higher levels of care than can be given in their own home.
However, a combination of seasonal deaths among the elderly with and the opening up of two new aged care facilities means there have been more beds available for those that need them.
People have been moved from hospital to aged care beds and people looking for aged care have been able to secure rooms in Canberra at the fastest rate in years.
But the speed at which the rooms have been filled indicates there is still more demand than supply.
BaptistCare’s Morling Lodge aged care residence in Red Hill has now been decommissioned, with residents moving to a new 160 bed facility in Griffith while Bupa opened its latest 144 bed facility in Stirling in July. Both already have waiting lists for specific beds.
Bupa’s third Canberra facility in Calwell is due to open later this year. RSL Life Care’s Bill McKenzie Gardens in Page and Goodwin Aged Care in Farrer are extending existing facilities to accommodate the increased demand.
But bed shortages may not be the only barrier to people moving into care.
Few people like to think about having to move from the comfort of their own home into residential aged care. Often people don’t know what is available or where to start when looking for a place. Then when they find something they like the look of, they are confronted with some very complex paperwork and the prospect of a long wait list.
There may be any number of reasons why people flatly refuse to look at residential care for themselves including the experiences of their own parents some 30 or so years ago.
But it is important that individuals who think they or a loved one may be close to needing care go and visit a range of facilities to see what the their options are, if only to remove some of their worst fears.
Choosing an aged care home is very subjective. While some people are more attracted to the older style facilities, others prefer the newer, almost hotel-like accommodation.
Some can see the value in having cinemas and coffee shops operating for families to enjoy, while others just want to focus on the meals and activities that are on offer for the residents.
In an attempt to deinstitutionalise its facilities, care providers are building and/or redesigning facilities with smaller accommodation living arrangements and even smaller groupings of people.
Both Bupa and BaptistCare in their new facilities have ensured viability by providing about 165 beds each but have set up small clusters or communities of 40 or so residents within the facilities. Each cluster or community has its own dining and common area, giving a more homely feel.
The stigma around aged care may still be alive and well. But if people go in with their eyes open and ask as many questions as possible they may be pleasantly surprised by some of the changes and innovation that is occurring.