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Recommendations for nursing homes around Canberra?

By kakosi - 20 December 2013 14

I’m looking for recommendations for high care nursing homes in and close to Canberra.  

I’d prefer first hand experiences so that I can get a better idea of which places live up to the sales pitch you get when you visit.

What’s Your opinion?


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14 Responses to
Recommendations for nursing homes around Canberra?
mazmar 6:52 pm 10 Dec 15

I wouldn’t recommend IRT Belconnen. I have relative there, staff friendly but not all trained well, meals awful, cook chilled food from Woolongong and one relative had to wait 3 days after the son complained to get a doctor out for diagnosis and script. They would not call a CALMs doctor in and finally got a doctor from Sydney would you believe. So they must have a contract with them.
Also wouldn’t recommend Villagio Sant Antonio Northside as they are lax with infection control measures

kakosi 4:08 pm 31 Dec 13

Have narrowed the search down to a few homes which I haven’t heard anything bad about: Calvary, Morshead and Goodwin in Ainslie (mostly due to it’s closeness to family homes). I’m surprised at the lack of choice once you need high care for a relative. Most homes won’t accept a high care placement.

kakosi 12:18 am 30 Dec 13

I’m hearing stories of understaffing quite a lot. Medical care is a primary concern. I’d like to be able to not have to visit twice a day to make sure food is eaten, personal care and washing happens, medicines are administered and any emergencies are dealt with on the same day. It’s not looking very positive so far.

Goodwin looks very nice in Ainslie – mostly because it has a great entrance foyer area and larger new rooms. They don’t have a nurse on site over night which is worrying cause that means non-medical carer staff are the only ones there after dinner till the morning.

ausbradr 1:06 pm 28 Dec 13

kakosi said :

Goodwin Ainslie

Can’t say I’ve lived in one but have had to visit there before. Looks pretty neat. Staff are friendly, and nothing screams class like a freakin’ baby grand piano in the lobby!

Flossie 10:09 am 28 Dec 13

When my grandmother ended in a high care unit in a Canberra facility, we found the staff were wonderful and supportive and worked so very hard to make sure the residents had a full and rich day to day life. Residents had podiatrist appointments and hairdressing appointments and activities etc and the ward didn’t have that nasty smell of unwashed and/or unchanged adults. No matter how impaired, if a resident wanted to attend the weekly church service, they were escorted to the chapel and volunteers were always welcome to help ensure they got there safely. (Trust me, when there are eight dementia patients going up one level in a lift, you would be amazed at how quickly they will try to scatter when the doors open to let them out.)
Where it all fell down for us was around health care. As swallowing becomes harder, and dementia sufferers become more likely to reflexively bite down on things in their mouths including fingers, we had a number of instances where staff, who are not nurses or health care professionals, would crush tablets in order to administer them as a paste or in a drink. Many of these medications were not suited for crushing, for example where there was a protective coating that was destroyed, and in some cases crushing was dangerous because it turned a slow release medication into an instant release medication. So the insufficiently trained staff were genuinely trying to do the right thing and administer the required meds, but it was a nightmare. We were eventually able to get many of the medications in liquid or other form. So my tip would be that if your relative needs health care stay very involved in making sure everything is as it should be.
Most distressingly for my grandmother’s care was when we were told there would be a registered nurse on duty overnight, but when my grandmother was passing away (related to a necrotising pressure sore) there was a delay in getting her palliative care medications administered as there was nobody authorised to administer them in the facility over night. When a palliative care nurse did arrive, a decision was made to administer a larger evening dose of medication because of the trouble with overnight administration of top up doses. Should never have happened.

I guess my point is that even in facilities who generally do a great job and are staffed by dedicated people, systemic problems mean that things can go distressingly awry. Be ready to fight for things to be done properly, but in the context of underpaid, undertrained, under resourced carers, remember that it’s rarely malicious when things go off the rails.

kakosi 12:08 am 28 Dec 13

Thanks so much with the recommendations so far. Has anyone had any good experiences with Goodwin Ainslie or Morshead in Lyneham? I know that Goodwin don’t have a registered nurse on duty overnight while some other homes do.

untilnow 9:59 pm 23 Dec 13

Hi I have recently volunteered at IRT Kangara Waters and would recommend it IF your relative would be going into the secure dementia unit as I think the dementia unit does a wonderful job. Otherwise I would not send my own relative there, particularly if he/she is especially vulnerable. I would recommend somewhere smaller with fewer residents. However, many residents there enjoy it and are settled in, so it comes down in the end to individual temperament and preferences.
Another thing I would say is please please understand the importance of you and your family’s role in providing support to your relative – many families think that since their relative is in residential care they are being taken care of completely however residential care facilities only provide the basics and the true support is provided by family.
With accreditation you are able to see online ratings showing the different areas of accreditation and their score on each on. DO NOT send anyone to Ginninderra Gardens as it has failed miserably.
Finally, there are no mandatory ratios for care staff in residential aged care. The 1:8 is an ideal but not necessarily upheld. Take it with a grain of salt.

Sandman 7:42 pm 23 Dec 13

Both my Grandparents are at Brindabella Gardens in Curtin. There was a fair bit of looking involved and in the end the parents decided between Brindabella gardens and one other. We had time so it was then a matter of waiting for a vacancy. They both started off in the regular section and have since been moved to higher care as they get less mobile. It all seems pretty good from what I’ve seen. Staff are very helpful and available and the meals and facilities seem pretty.
Mum and Auntie occasionally have a little whine about small things but I think that’s more them being overprotective and focus minded rather than any real running issues. Concerns and issues are always addressed promptly and Grandma and Grandpa are usually pretty happy when they’re health is good.

suemaree 6:29 pm 23 Dec 13

Mirinjani Weston, my father was there for 3months,the care was wonderful, always staff and carers around, the staff were amazing in his final days, couldn’t ask for better care.

kakosi 5:03 pm 23 Dec 13

Bad Seed said :

The issue is recommendations matching up with vacancies. You might get a recommendation for a place that is positive but if they don’t have a vacancy and you need a place NOW then that’s not much good to you. Often, you meed to take the first place that is available if your need is urgent and then consider moving to a place you are happier with later and decide if the trauma of a second move is worth it. I have had a bit to do with Goodwin Monash and have heard positives about it and also hear good things about Calvary Bruce but not from personal experience, only reports.

Thank you for providing some names. I too have only heard good things about Calvary – they tell me their waiting list is very long.

We did accept a “first vacancy” on the idea that if it didn’t work out we’d look for another home but that experience was incredibly confronting and now we’re desperately trying to find somewhere else.

As there aren’t many high care facilities in Canberra and only one in Queanbeyan there isn’t much of a choice or many spots available – and some of these nine never seem to have vacancies listed. However, any positive reviews or experiences will certainly help us to work out which places on the list people would recommend.

The list includes (in order of listing on the aged care guide website): Jindalee; Adria Villiage; BCS Morling Lodge; Bupa Aranda; Calvary Bruce; Brindabella Gardens; Goodwin Ainslie; IRT Kangara Waters Belconnen; Kankinya Lyneham (but this is only dementia specific); RSL Morshead Lyneham; Uniting Care Mirinjani Weston; Villaggio Sant Antonio.

Bad Seed 3:45 pm 23 Dec 13

The issue is recommendations matching up with vacancies. You might get a recommendation for a place that is positive but if they don’t have a vacancy and you need a place NOW then that’s not much good to you. Often, you meed to take the first place that is available if your need is urgent and then consider moving to a place you are happier with later and decide if the trauma of a second move is worth it. I have had a bit to do with Goodwin Monash and have heard positives about it and also hear good things about Calvary Bruce but not from personal experience, only reports.

housebound 6:55 am 22 Dec 13

kakosi said :

I’ve visited but the homes ask you come at a time they can show you around (they are private institutions). I have visited just before lunch times so I could see what the meals looked like. I ask about staffing levels but they all say they comply with the ratio: 1 carer to 8 people (although this will change next year I’m told).

No one in the industry will say a word about who’s doing it well or who isn’t and the certification process doesn’t say much other than they’ve been certified to practice.

It’s not easy. We must have had different needs because we had only two options in Canberra (one in Lyneham and one in Belconnen), and one didn’t pass the “smell test”. So that left one, and it was pretty good. It met all the requirements you have listed. If you have nothing else to differentiate, pick one close to where you live.

If you are paying full fees, you will be charged tens of thousands of dollars a year, plus doctor and medical fees. I think that gives you some grounds for sticking to your guns and having another visit around meal time.

kakosi 1:49 pm 21 Dec 13

Thank you for your advice, this is truly a crappy time for us. Yes I have a short list, after visiting every high care home in Canberra, and apart from three homes which I had doubts about due to what I saw, it includes every other high care home in the ACT and the one in Queanbeyan.

I’ve visited but the homes ask you come at a time they can show you around (they are private institutions). I have visited just before lunch times so I could see what the meals looked like. I ask about staffing levels but they all say they comply with the ratio: 1 carer to 8 people (although this will change next year I’m told).

The point about it is that unless you’ve actually had someone inside the homes you really don’t know what the real situation will be like.

I’m not looking for negatives just anyone who’s had a positive and can recommend a place that’s basically decent (people are washed more than once or twice a week, they are fed if they can’t do it themselves, they are taken to the toilet or have their nappy changed more than three times a day, their medications are given on time and they are checked daily by the nurse on duty and a doctor is called when necessary).

No one in the industry will say a word about who’s doing it well or who isn’t and the certification process doesn’t say much other than they’ve been certified to practice.

housebound 11:59 am 21 Dec 13

It’s not a fun time. I am sorry you have to do this at Christmas. We went through it a few years ago, and it wasn’t fun in so many different ways.

One thing though, everywhere we looked, the staff seemed to genuinely care and do the best they can for their patients. But the sector in general has issues of resourcing, and there is only so much a human can do.

I can’t really recommend one place over another, but I assume you have a short list by now. Have you tried paying a second visit to those on your short list? if so, you might want to consider the following.

If you can, try to visit on later on a Friday afternoon/evening. In some of the places, the residents are all strangely docile and calm, sleepy even, and there are fewer staff on hand. Some aggressive/violent patients need medication to be happy (or at least manageable – remember, they are there for a reason), but not all. Try to visit around a meal time and see whether people who need assistance with eating are getting it. we never had problems in that area, but it is good to be sure about that level of attention.

Depending on your relative’s needs, ask about the homes’ programs, and ask if you can visit (inspect) around the time they claim to run them (music is a good one). Look at participation rates and engagement.

We were very happy with where our relative ended up, and due to their high needs, there was little choice anyway. So we are speaking from a positive experience. But if you are worried about reality meeting the sales pitch, then this is one way you can verify these things for yourself.

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