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Assisted Living

Assisted living is a popular option for seniors who need help with some of life's daily activities, but don't need full-time medical care or the supervision of a nursing home. Assisted living offers help but encourages personal privacy and freedom.

Assisted living facilities are usually apartment-style units. A unit might include a kitchen, meals, transportation, housekeeping services and access to social activities. Most facilities have common areas for dining and group events. But, a good assisted living facility also provides the safety and security of 24-hour support and access to care. Also, residents should receive personalized exercise and wellness programs from the facility.

The best time to look for an assisted living facility is six months to a year in advance of the time when you will need to secure a space. The longer you wait, the fewer choices you will have. While there is no federal oversight of assisted living facilities, each state determines what licensing procedures and regulations must be followed. This means that, depending on what state you live in, an assisted living facility might go by the name of "residential care," "board and care," "adult home," retirement residence," or "alternative care facility."

When researching assisted living facilities, you will find there are many options available. After you compile your list of facilities, call to set up personal appointments. Make sure to visit the facility with your parent or relative, and get to know the staff and residents. Look to see if the facility is well-lit and safe. Try to have a meal during your visit to check on the quality of the food. Also, observe the interactions between the staff and the residents, as well as between resident and resident. Hopefully you see warm and friendly conversations taking place. After your official visit, try to drop by unannounced two or three more times in the future to see how meals and other activities are handled at different times of the day.

Then, make sure to review the contract and all associated costs carefully. Note the fees for any extra services you and your loved one may require, as well as any possible increases in rates. Check with your state's long-term care ombudsman. He should have a record of any complaints lodged against the facility. Finally, have an attorney who specializes in elder law review all of the paperwork before you sign it.

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