How to Choose the Right Aged Care Home [4 Step Guide] 

Step 1 - ACAT | Step 2 - Shortlist | Step 3 - Tours | Step 4 - Comparison

Updated 5th December 2023  |   |  6 minute read

Written by Jesse Gramenz Reviewed by Michelle Mitri 

St Vincent’s has been the home for thousands of residents, and we have been a guide to countless families navigating aged care. Based on our experience, we’ve assembled a 4-step plan to help you navigate aged care and choose the best home for you.

When choosing an aged care home, it can be hard to know whether you’ve made the right decision until you’ve moved in, but there are some indicators that can help point you in the right direction.

Step 1: Get your ACAT done

An ACAT assessment helps you know exactly the type of care and support you need. Without a clear understanding of what your needs are, choosing the right aged care home is nearly impossible.

So, before anything else, make sure you’ve had your ACAT assessment. 

Call us on 1800 841 490 to get started. We can help prepare you for what the Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT) might ask, and how to get the most out of your assessment.

Read on:

Step 2: Make a shortlist of different homes

Here’s some questions to ask, or things to consider when looking for homes to add to your shortlist: 

  • Are the services you need available?
  • How much does it cost? Even with government assistance, there still may be fees you will be charged. 
  • Where are aged care services provided? Would you like to stay in your local area? 
  • Do their values align with your own? 
  • Would you prefer to live and be cared for by a not-for-profit community provider, like St Vincent’s, or a profit-based business? 

Remember: Always preference quality of care over the quality of buildings. If you can get both then that is ideal, but it’s always better to have good care in an older home than bad care in a newer home. 

When you have a good idea of providers that answer the above questions, make a shortlist of the homes that work best for you and your family. Now that you have a list, you can request to tour locations to see them for yourself in person.


Read on:

Step 3: Book in a viewing of the facility

The tour is arguably the most important part in choosing an aged care home. Here is where you can meet a skilled admissions coordinator to help you navigate the aged care system and when you’re there, you can keep an eye out for the signs that the home could be the right one for you. 

Here are the things to consider (and ask) when on tour:

1. Does the home feel welcoming?

You know when a place feels right.  A well-kept home is a reflection of the care. 

  • Does it look clean? Does it smell nice and fresh? These can be some important indicators as to the quality of the care of the home and how attentive staff are. 
  • Does the home have nice spaces with art, flowers, and decorations? Does it have natural light and interesting views?
  • Are the gardens and grounds looked after?
  • Are there different spaces to enjoy with other residents and visiting families as well as smaller spaces for more personal interactions? 

RememberWhen choosing a home, focus on care. A home can have all the fancy fittings and amenities in the world, but without proper care it will never be right for you. Find somewhere that feels like home. Somewhere with a community of staff and residents; not just the fanciest building on the block.

2. What is the leisure and lifestyle program like?

Residents are at their best when they are happy and engaged. The last thing you want is a loved one spending their days just sitting alone in a room. Ask about leisure and lifestyle calendars, get a feel for the community and, if you’re lucky, it’s great if you can see some activities in action too! 

 Things to look out for include:

  • Are the staff and residents smiling? Is there plenty of activity in the home?
  • Are there people left alone by themselves, or is everyone accounted for and having a good time?
  • Do staff have friendly conversation with residents and each other?
  • Are there engaging activities happening? Is there music and singing? 

St Vincent’s has an example lifestyle calendar you can view.

3. What is the food like?

Look for aged care homes that do their cooking fresh on site. You can request a tour at mealtimes to see and smell what the food is like and that can be a good measure of how the food is. Trying the food is maybe not the best idea as it is usually tailored to what residents like (and maybe not you) but certainly seeing and smelling, what the food experience is like is worth doing. 

Also, ask if there are qualified chefs making the food and request a copy of the menu if it’s available. All of these little requests will go a long way in giving you confidence in the quality of the food in a home.

For an example of an aged care menu, you can have a look at a St Vincent’s here.

Key questions to ask the aged care home

1. How can I be sure my loved ones are getting everything they need?

A question like this is a great lead in to identifying the style of care that’s offered. What you really want is a style of tailored care that treats every resident as an individual. An explanation of care plans and how these are tailored to each resident should be another important aspect of care that is brought up. If this isn’t a topic of conversation, you should make it one, as the style of care plays a major part in how your loved ones are looked after. 

2. What checks are in place to ensure quality service is being provided? 

This is a question best directed at clinical staff, but it’s important you have peace of mind about how the process works for managing care plans and catering for changes in health. 

3. Who will be providing the services - a nurse, aged care worker etc?

Similar to the above question, getting a clear understanding of the different roles in aged care is very important. Not only does it help in understanding who to ask for different questions, but it also helps you understand who you’ll be helped by the most day to day.

4. Will my services be provided by the same person each time? 

Continuity of care is really important. Having a consistent group of staff helps a home feel more stable and can also help residents be more settled, with familiar faces and a familiar routine. 

5. How are any concerns or complaints handled?

Having a clear path to concerns and complaints is essential. The last thing a family member wants is for them to turn their back and not know whether their loved one’s concerns are being paid attention to. Getting a clear understanding of the complaint or concern process is essential as both a resident and a family member.

The big question: Can I trust them?

The most important question to ask yourself is if you trust the home and/or provider. You are trusting a loved one into someone else’s hands. You don’t want to doubt the care and ability of the people caring for your loved ones when your back is turned.

  • Is the provider forthcoming with information? 
  • Can they answer all the questions you ask them?
  • Are you confident that they can care for your loved one as well as you can?

To get a better understanding of the kind of qualifications and signs to look for in aged care staff, you can check out St Vincent’s staff information

Step 4 - Compare and decide

You’ve looked at every possible option, taken notes and exhausted every question you could ask and you’ve finally arrived at a place where you can make a decision.

While it isn’t always possible to be certain, by following some of the tips on this page, you can make the best decision with the information you have.

Still have questions?

There’s nothing better than talking to someone. For other tips and tricks for navigating aged care, our team is always ready to chat. Call us on 1800 778 767 to get started