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How Do I Choose the Right Place?

Make an appointment to visit each place you're considering. "Don't be afraid to ask questions," Bersani says. "This is an important decision and can take time to find the right fit."

When you visit, ask these questions:

  • What types of training does your staff have?
  • What's the staff-to-patient ratio?
  • Will you create a written care plan that's tailored to my loved one's needs?
  • Will the facility be able to continue to care for my loved one as his needs change?
  • Is the group of residents a good match for my loved one?
  • Are there shopping centers and other businesses nearby? Are they within walking distance?
  • Do you offer fun, social activities? Spiritual ones?

Some things to look for on your visit:

  • Visit during mealtimes and sample the food. Check to see if the kitchen is clean and the service is good.
  • Find out about safety measures. Are there call buttons? Is there a medical doctor or registered nurse on duty?
  • What does the outdoor space look like?
  • How does the staff talk to residents?
  • Watch how residents interact with each other.
  • Talk to residents and their adult children. Ask questions.
  • Visit each center more than once. Drop in without notice.

You can review state licensing reports to see if there are any areas of concern and see if anyone has filed complaints about the facility. You can also check with your local Better Business Bureau.

How Expensive Is It?

Assisted living may cost less than $25,000 a year or more than $50,000 a year. It's usually less expensive than a nursing home.

"Different levels of care at any facility have different price points," McVicker says.

Many places charge a base rate. When you add services, you pay more. Avoid surprises by asking what's included in the basic price and how much it costs to get extra care.

The costs are usually paid by the resident or his family. If you or your loved one has a long-term care insurance policy or health insurance policy that includes assisted living care, some of the expense may be covered.