How to ease the transition into aged care

WHAT TO BRING: Having personal touches from home can make the transition to aged care easier. Picture: Shutterstock

WHAT TO BRING: Having personal touches from home can make the transition to aged care easier. Picture: Shutterstock

Bringing a little bit of home can be an important part of settling in.

Moving from independent living to aged care - whether it is to a low-dependency village setting or a high-care environment - can be an emotional experience.

After more than half a century living on a farm, what my grandmother said she was going to miss most of all was her garden when she moved into a retirement community.

She had planted and tended a vast rolling hillside at the back of the house, full of wonders for grandchildren to explore - a little bamboo forest, a succulent nook, a veggie patch, a fragrant garden and roses, roses, roses.

Thankfully, her new community was quite happy for her to use her green thumb, even allowing her to take up a patch previously covered by lawn to extend her garden. It became a hub for the local birdlife and for walkers to admire.

When the time came to move into higher-dependency care, the large-scale gardening projects she loved were no longer an option.

But she could continue her love of plants by decking her room full of blooms - in pots this time - which provided her with continuing delight.

Exploring your options to bring a little bit of home along with you can be an important part of settling into a new aged care environment. The good news is that there is a burgeoning array of options out there for people to consider.

Marcela Carrasco works in the industry and to keep people in their homes independently as long as possible, "but obviously there comes a time when that's not a possibility, either because the complexity of their condition is growing or their carer is not able to do that anymore.

"That brings up all sorts of emotions around guilt and trying to navigate the aged care system, which can be complicated," she said.

It's important that everyone - the person going into care and their support network - feels confident that the decision is right for that person and that this will be the best setting for them.

Marcela said it was critical to choose an environment that suited the person and their situation and recognised that everyone would have different priorities, including how far away it was from family and how easy it was to access.

For others, finding a home among people of a shared ethnic background was important.

Some aged care providers provide overnight or respite care that can ease the process of feeling at home.

"It's about giving confidence around the decision more than anything else, knowing this is the right decision for you," Marcela said.

What you can take with you into aged care will depend on each provider.

Photographs and smaller items of extreme personal value are encouraged to help settle in, but hard decisions will still have to be made regarding most household items. Some even accept pets.

The Australian government's My Aged Care resources recommend families ask homes directly what can be brought in, as each facility has its own guidelines.