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5 pitfalls to avoid in choosing an assisted living facility

When you find that your elderly parent needs the kind of help you can no longer provide, it may be time to consider a move to an assisted living facility. Your first thought may be about a nearby home, one you have admired because of its beautiful landscaping and colonial architecture. Do not be swayed by outward appearances, however. You need to learn about staffing, costs, and how well your parent will be cared for at this or any other facility. When you begin a serious search for new living arrangements for Mom or Dad, here are five pitfalls to avoid.

1. Not looking beyond the obvious

An assisted living facility may seem ideal because it is attractive, offers luxurious amenities and comes with a high price tag, but these things are not necessarily indications that your parent will receive the best care. Visit a few facilities. Check out the accommodations for residents. Meet staff and ask questions; get a feel for "atmosphere." How is the level of cleanliness? Do people seem happy or depressed?

2. Choosing for the way your parent used to be

You may be remembering when your father played golf or when your mom was considered the best hostess in the neighborhood. Keep in mind that time has moved on and so have they. Your mother may no longer feel comfortable with lots of people around, and your dad has trouble recalling those days when he spent his free time on the links. Do not make assisted living arrangements based on the parents you once knew. Make sure you consider their current needs.

3. Ignoring parental preferences

Be sure that the staff at the assisted living facility you prefer is accustomed to managing resident preferences. For example, they should know who to contact in case of an emergency and understand your parent's wishes concerning medical help, such as CPR or a trip to the ER. Important preferences should be added into any contract you sign.

4. Not understanding the additional costs

In the event Mom or Dad should require a hospital stay, be sure you have an understanding of the costs associated with such a situation. Your parent will probably need time to recuperate, which means additional help. Does the facility routinely bring in a private aide? Will they insist your parent be moved to a nursing home temporarily? Find out all you can about standard practices and associated costs.

5. Only skimming the contract

Read the contract carefully, do not just skim it-especially the fine print. Although most assisted living facility contracts are fairly straightforward, there may be some legalese you find confusing. This is the time to get together with an attorney experienced with elder law who can answer questions and help you navigate the sometimes choppy waters of choosing the best assisted care facility for your parent.

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