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News You Can Use: Five tips for choosing an assisted living center

Shelly Barnes • Updated Apr 26, 2017 at 7:00 PM

When confronted with the question of senior care for a loved one, the many options available can be downright daunting. Understanding the basic differences between nursing homes and assisted living centers can ease the confusion and help you make the best decision.

If your loved one is determined to maintain their independence, and they have only minor issues of aging to contend with, an assisted living facility might be your best option. However, if your elderly loved one has significant medical problems that require regular monitoring, or mental or emotional issues that need constant attention, a skilled nursing facility could be a good fit. Choosing an assisted living center or a nursing home is not a decision to be taken lightly.

Here are a few practical tips to help make the decision-and the transition-easier for everyone involved:

• Start slow. Begin with hiring help for basic chores, such as mowing the lawn or running errands. As the need for care progresses, add more in-home care.

Start a conversation. Talk to your loved one about what the future might hold. Discuss their medical issues and what their options are for long-term care. Making a decision may not happen overnight, so be patient with them as they sort through their emotions.

• Offer choices. When staying at home is no longer realistic, sit down to talk about assisted living centers or nursing homes. Allow them to make many of the decisions on their own, within reason. Bring their doctor into the discussion and ask for their opinion as well.

• Make legal preparations. Long before a long-term care decision must be made; consider the legal roadblocks that might hinder any elder-care choices. Talk to your loved one about finances, durable power of attorney, conservatorship, and other legal factors.

• Show them you care. When you do place your senior loved one in an assisted living center or nursing home, visit them often and talk with them daily if at all possible. Pay attention to their care, follow up on any complaints, and become an advocate for them. 

• Most of all, remind them how much you care about them, and show them that their comfort and health is your utmost concern.

For more information on other family and consumer sciences topics, contact your UT/TSU Extension office at 615-444-9584 or email Shelly Barnes, FCS Extension agent, at sbarnes@utk.edu.

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