The basics: aged care

Medical doctor and educator, Dr Renee Lim, explains residential aged care for those looking to better understand what care might be right for their loved ones.

The basics: aged care

Medical doctor and educator, Dr Renee Lim, explains residential aged care for those looking to better understand what care might be right for their loved ones.

“Heroes are made by the path they choose, not the powers they are graced with.”- Ironman

I often see the elderly as superheroes...

  • Cloaked in their powers of history and experience;
  • Owners of a secret language - a glance or a squeezed hand that becomes a whole; conversation between themselves and their partner in crime;
  • The caring, concerned and confused look of their mere mortal child, who is the junior super hero trying to prove themselves, but without understanding of their powers yet, and awkwardly trying to catch the mantle that has been thrown in their direction;
  • And, if lucky, the adoring fans – the grandchildren who believe

But as we all know well from movies and books, superheroes can be wounded.

In our world, this often takes the form of family breakdowns, dementia, illnesses that strip physical and mental functions or even just frailty, and an often associated decision that our superhero is no longer independent and safe on their own.

The decision to increase care, or move into a residential aged care facility (RACF) can be an emotional one. Here is some foundational information to help you and your family make the choices that are right for you.

What is it?

A residential aged-care home, also known as a nursing home, offers accommodation and 24-hour personal and health care for an elderly person who is no longer able to live independently in their own home. These facilities – both government-funded and private – can be utilised on a permanent or short-term (respite) basis and provide various levels of care (see for a list of the services and care that must be provided in a government-approved facility). Younger people with a disability, dementia or other special care needs may also live in an aged-care home.

Why is it important?

When considering moving a dying person into an aged-care home or assisted-living community – from an acute hospital or their own home – it is important to check (prior to admission) whether the facility is equipped to provide the appropriate level of care and support when the person’s health declines. If the facility cannot provide end-of-life care or fulfil the dying person’s wishes (as stated in an advance care directive), other arrangements will need to be made. This may include caring for your loved one in your home, admitting them to a hospice, keeping them in hospital or arranging palliative care to be delivered in the aged-care facility.

When do I access it?

A frail, older person may decide to move into a residential aged-care facility when they can no longer live in their own home without assistance or when their family needs help caring for them in the final stages of life. They may also enter an aged-care home after a hospital admission, either permanently or for a short time (this is known as residential respite care).

How do I access it?

To find out if the person you are caring for is eligible for entry to a residential aged-care home that is subsidised by the Australian Government, you will need a free assessment by an Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT, or ACAS in Victoria). Visit or call My Aged Care on 1800 200 422. You can also do an online search for private aged-care facilities or retirement villages in your local area or ask your GP for advice.

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