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Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

Assisted Living and Nursing Homes

My dad has lived alone for awhile. Lately, he’s had trouble with basic activities like bathing and dressing. I think an assisted-living facility might be a good option for him, but I don’t know much about them. Where do I start?

When you realize a parent or loved one needs more help than you can give, you may have to make some big decisions in a short time. Sometimes, with the help of a caregiver, an older person can continue to live at home (for more on caregivers, see Hiring Caregivers). But you may find that an assisted-living facility or nursing home is the best fit. Assisted living allows residents to maintain independence, living in apartments but getting help with daily activities. Nursing homes offer a higher level of care and are best for patients who need regular nursing attention and medical care. For an overview of long-term care options, visit the Medicare website and look for Long-Term Care.

Choosing the right facility takes research. Ask family, friends, and health care providers for recommendations, as well as your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). Your AAA also should know about other resources for eldercare services and caregiver support in your community. To find and compare Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes, use Medicare’s online Nursing Home Compare tool.

After you narrow your options, visit some facilities to ask questions and get a feel for each place. The sources in the list on the left are good places to start. For example, the Assisted Living Federation of America offers a consumer checklist, and the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging offers information on what to look for when touring a nursing home.

Once you’ve chosen a facility, make sure you know its complaint procedure policy and how to have the care plan reviewed in case you have concerns about the level or quality of care.

Get help resolving an issue with a long-term care facility by finding a long-term care ombudsman in your state at ltcombudsman.org.