How to make the aged care application process easier for consumers

Last updated on 21 June 2023

Accessibility is essential when giving your future residents the opportunity to apply for a bed within your organisation. [Source: Shutterstock]

Applying for a place in residential aged care can be a daunting task at the best of times; it’s a major change for any older person, let alone for someone that may have just experienced a sudden loss of independence. 

Although it’s necessary to collect a vast amount of information prior to accepting any resident, it also pays to support consumers with a smooth application journey. You don’t want to confuse them or limit them in the way they can fill out a form. And as the internal shift from paper-based records to electronic records continues, so too does the digitisation of application forms.

So if your prospective residents are struggling to fill out forms online or they don’t know where to look for relevant information, it’s time to make the application process for aged care easier. Here’s how you can achieve it!

Make applications accessible

In this day and age, if you don’t have application forms that are accessible across all electronic devices and browsers, you’re potentially missing out on valuable consumers. Some of the most important ways to make applications accessible include:

  • Designing for internet browser compatibility, such as Google Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Microsoft Edge
  • Creating dynamic forms that fit to all screen sizes, e.g. computers, laptops or smart devices
  • Providing consumers with forms that can be completed online without printing – although older people who aren’t digital natives would still benefit from the option of printing

One such example of a simplified application form comes from Carinity Aged Care, who have shortened their application form. There’s no duplicated information as medical professionals no longer have to be involved; discharge plans or statements and medical summaries suffice.

“The application process is now much faster, more convenient and less strenuous to complete. Our application forms have been shortened to make it easier to apply without a doctor having to complete sections of the form. Prospective residents or a family member can apply online on one form and attach documents, either on a computer, mobile phone or tablet,” Carinity Aged Care Regional Residential Manager, Larissa Gear, said.

Use fillable documents 

Instead of printing off documents or converting files to fill them in, create interactive fillable aged care application forms that can be edited online. This means your consumers can edit and save the document as is – but only by ticking boxes or writing key information where you allow it. 

This is perfect for PDFs which need to be filled out quickly with no fuss, and it’s a better option than a downloadable Word Document which often experiences formatting issues. You can create fillable PDFs through top tier programs like Adobe, while other alternatives include Foxit and DocFly.

You could also try application forms that are embedded into a webpage conveniently allowing consumers to save their progress as they go. That said, this often requires more IT infrastructure and support, but it could be the right move for your organisation.

Provide reference points and support

Aged care applications require a lot of information, including personal, medical and financial details. So when you are asking serious questions, remember to give examples and reference points to reduce confusion. Step by step guides are great for this as it really breaks down the process. 

It also helps to prompt consumers into seeking support when there are sections they don’t understand, including by providing your contact details or asking them to reach out to a bank or financial advisor. Southern Cross Care (Tasmania) is one organisation that does this well, giving frequent tips and pointers throughout their residential care application form.

Reduce the pressure on consumers

In the end, you want to reduce the pressure on consumers. Carinity has achieved this by removing the need for a doctor to fill in a section on their aged care application form. It’s not the only provider to do that as many already rely on an up-to-date aged care assessment (ACAT) or relevant hospital discharge information.

But by reducing the pressure on consumers to run around and make appointments with medical professionals, you’re truly simplifying the process for them. And yes, there will be circumstances where medical professionals have to be involved, but the information you need will likely already be available in a way that doesn’t require others to fill out forms manually. That’s a move which truly makes applying for residential care a whole lot easier.

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