Choosing a residential facility

After the ACAT assessment

The Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) will advise you which type of accommodation is best for the person with dementia. They will probably suggest that you look at a number of facilities and will give some names and contact details for some facilities that may be appropriate.

Looking at residential facilities

When you are choosing a facility take time to consider how it will meet the needs of the person with dementia. For example, does the facility have appropriate activities for stimulation and security and suitable practices for someone who wanders?

It is advisable to visit at least three facilities. Ring and make an appointment with the Director of Nursing or Manager. Some facilities welcome prospective residents and their family and carers to visit for a meal and this can provide an opportunity to talk to other residents and get a feel for the place.

You may find it helpful to take a friend or relative with you and a checklist of questions. You may need to visit more than once. Remember that first impressions count. Rely upon your intuition and common-sense.

If the situation is urgent you may find that your preferred choice is unavailable and you are under pressure to accept the first bed available. You may need to decide which of the needs of the person with dementia is more important. For example, rather than the person having a large room, you might decide that it is more important that they are located close enough to home so that you can visit easily. You may be able to resolve any concerns you have, for example, about room size, by talking to the staff about how the person with dementia could have access to other areas.

Good design in a residential facility for people with dementia

Most people with dementia respond well to small, familiar domestic environments with safe places to move about in. A checklist of dementia-friendly design features is included below.

Using this checklist may help you when visiting different facilities.

Dementia-friendly environmental checklist

  • Does the facility feel home-like?
  • Is it obvious how to get to the toilet from most parts of the facility?
  • Are residents' different cultural backgrounds considered?
  • Do people usually seem to be relaxed and comfortable in the facility?
  • Are objects that people are likely to bump into or trip over placed in safe areas?
  • Would it be clear to the resident where to go if they needed help?
  • Is this room decorated with subtle, home-like furnishings that are not too busy or distracting?
  • Is this room decorated in a style that the resident would feel comfortable with?
  • Are there quiet and private spaces available?
  • If you were lost could you see something that would help you to work out where you were?
  • Is there a safe sun-protected outdoor space for residents?
  • Does each resident have space for their personal, special belongings nearby?

Adapted from Kratiuk-Wall et al in Cultural diversity and dementia, Commonwealth of Australia, 1997.

Deciding on a facility

You need to judge the situation for yourself and feel comfortable with whichever decision you make. This may mean that you decline the first offer of an available bed. If the person is in hospital this may be difficult. Some hospitals may pressure you to accept the first offer. If you feel the vacancy is not appropriate to the needs of the person with dementia discuss your concerns with the hospital’s Discharge Liaison Officer or social worker.

If the vacancy you accept is not your preferred choice, you may be able to transfer to the facility of your choice when a bed becomes available. Let the preferred facility know that you are still interested and keep in touch with them.

Contact us

Dementia Australia is the national peak body for people living with dementia, their families and carers and provides leadership in policy and services. To find out more, contact us or call the National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500.