What happens when the time comes that Mom or Dad cannot live alone anymore? The questions then begin and become seemingly endless: How much care is needed? How mobile are they? Are we dealing with physical fragility or mental fragility as well? Can Mom and Dad stay together? How much does it cost? How will we pay for this?

Today we will address the type of home, apartment and facility that might be available to you and your family. Next month, we will address the Medicaid maze and the financial options to consider for this transition.

Let’s begin with some simple quick fixes and then move to options for larger life changes. After the hospital and then the rehabilitation facility, unless full mobility is achieved, help may be needed at home. Two kinds of help should be considered: 1-hiring someone to be in the home part-time to assist your loved one, and 2-modifying the home with fixtures to assist for easier living.

The type of person you hire is dependent upon your needs. Is medical care needed or housekeeping or both? Carefully interview anyone who might be spending time in the home. All background checks should include a criminal background check, call personal references, verify they are bonded, and use a reputable company to assist you in this process. It is critically important that you hire someone who is thoroughly vetted.

When being at home is not an option, there are various places to consider depending upon the level of care that is needed. The first place to be considered should always be with family. That is not an easy decision to make, but it should be a serious discussion. We start out in strollers, walkers, and diapers and we end up there as well. Our parents took care of us despite the fact that the physicality of caring for us was not easy! And it does not get easier when we are now trying to handle full-size adults and preserve dignity as well.

If after thoughtful consideration that is not an option, then make a determination about what type of care is needed. The following information should help guide you through some basic terminology when beginning your search:

Assisted Living

In general, assisted living is a housing option for those who need help with some activities of daily living, including minor help with medications. Costs tend to vary according to the level of daily help required, although staff is available 24 hours a day. Some assisted living facilities provide apartment-style living with scaled-down kitchens, while others provide rooms. In some, you may need to share a room and most facilities have common areas for dining, social and recreational activities.

A Continuing Care Retirement Community

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) are facilities that include independent living, assisted living, and nursing home care in one location, so seniors can stay in the same general area as housing needs change. There is normally the cost of buying a unit in the community as well as monthly fees that increase as you require higher levels of care. It also may mean spouses can still be very close to one another even if one requires a higher level of care.

Nursing Homes

A nursing home is normally the highest level of care for older adults outside of a hospital. While they do provide assistance in activities of daily living, they differ from other senior housing in that they also provide a high level of medical care. A licensed physician supervises each resident’s care and a nurse or other medical professional is almost always on the premises. Skilled nursing care and medical professionals such as occupational or physical therapists are also available.

These are challenging times for any family. Be patient with each other and do not rush into any decision without everyone being on the same page. First and foremost, remember you love each other and that even though it’s a difficult time; we all age and just want to be treated with compassion and dignity as we do.