Connect with the right rest home for your needs

Shifting home is one of life's big milestones whatever your age and it requires patient planning and thoughtful decision-making.

Shifting home is one of life’s big milestones whatever your age and it requires patient planning and thoughtful decision-making.

Upsizing your way through family life is accepted as a positive rite-of-passage. But downsizing once your independent family has left the nest may not always be by choice.

For those whose declining health has dimmed all expectations of independent living in a retirement village, a move into a rest home for long term care can seem daunting and demoralising.

As with any issue in life, unanswered questions only feed self-doubt. So take charge of this important stage of your life, gather all the information you need and improve your odds of moving into the rest home that is right for you.

Assessing your needs

Are you concerned about the well-being of your partner or elderly parent at home? Contact your doctor for referral to the Needs Assessment Co-ordination Service to establish the level of help required. Only NASC’s trained professionals, not GPs, can authorise publicly funded help at home, such as help with showering or bathing, dressing assistance and Meals on Wheels.

Needs Assessment can help source rest home vacancies, answer questions about funding and arrange follow-up meetings to see that your needs are being met once you move.

Eldernet ( posts weekday updates of rest home, dementia care and hospital vacancies in several district health board areas to help you choose.

Choosing a rest home

You may prefer to stay in your familiar neighbourhood or you may need to move closer to family. If so, ask yourself if the rest home is on a bus route. How far away are the nearest shops? The doctor’s surgery? The bowls’ club? The RSA? Your Yellow Guide™ to Retirement Living, your local Yellow Pages and the NASC, among other resources, list rest homes and their contact details.

Make an appointment to visit more than one rest home to talk to both the manager and some of the staff. Treat this interview as if you were finding a new family doctor or engaging a tradesman. You wanted the best person for the job then; you want the best rest home for your needs now.

Dealing with the legal formalities

It helps to know that all rest homes must be certified by the Ministry of Health as independent proof that they meet industry standards.

Your rest home must provide you with a copy of its admission agreement, which sets out its legal responsibilities for your care. Enlist a trusted family member or friend to go through this document with you before you sign it and consider obtaining legal advice.

Check that any extra monetary charges are specified in the agreement. Remember that no health care provider (that’s your rest home) can charge you for any service you receive that is already part of its contract with the district health board.

If you’re not happy with some aspect of the agreement, speak up and negotiate an acceptable alternative.

Be actively involved in your Care Plan, which specifies how you are to be cared for, your wishes concerning resuscitation in the event of an emergency and whether you want family to be notified in the event of a fall, for example.

Your rest home will be your home in every sense of the word. It needs to hold appeal for you on an emotional level and for its practical features for your future happiness and well-being.

Your tour-of-inspection checklist

Once you’ve short-listed your favourites for closer inspection, enjoy your visits, allow plenty of time to ask questions, be observant and listen to your instincts.


Are the bedrooms and common areas such as the dining room and lounges warm, sunny, clean and welcoming? Are there quiet areas as well?

Do the residents seem to be happy? Do they enjoy their group activities? Ask them what they enjoy and what they don’t. Ask yourself if they’re the sort of people whose company you’ll enjoy every day. After all, they’ll effectively be your flatmates.

Are the gardens well-kept? Are the grounds flat for an easy outdoor walk?

Management and training

Talk to the manager and staff about their backgrounds, and on-going training. What quality systems does the management team have in place? Does the rest home belong to an association and if so, what benefits does that offer you?

Care, services and facilities

Is the kitchen clean at all times? How varied are the menus? How well are dietary needs catered for? What laundry facilities are there? How do staff manage those needing help at mealtimes, or who wander or are incontinent? Are there enough bathrooms and toilets and do they have emergency call buttons?

Medical care

Can you keep your own GP? What other medical staff are in-house or on call? What other services are sourced – whether it’s a hairdresser, a church minister or a podiatrist? How often are group outings organised?

Family, friends and socialising

How strict are the visiting hours? How do staff respond toward visitors? Can your family share a meal with you occasionally?

What are the rules about alcohol consumption, smoking or bringing in your pet cat?

Are there enough single rooms? Will there be adequate privacy if you’re sharing a room?

Last but not least …

Can you bring your own bed or your favourite rocking chair with you? After all, familiarity brings with it security and peace of mind and that’s what anyone of any age has a right to expect in their home or rest home.