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Is Assisted Living Right for Your Loved One?

For a family member who can no longer live alone, assisted living may be an option short of entering a nursing home.

To help caregivers faced with the critical decision of where to turn on behalf of their loved ones, LifeCare® Inc. offers the following guidance:

* Assisted-living facilities aren't nursing homes. Assisted living is designed to help people who can't live independently any longer but who don't require intensive around-the-clock skilled nursing care. Assisted living is a middle ground between independent living and a nursing home.

* Assisted-living facilities try to help people preserve as much of their independence as possible. These facilities help people with the daily-living activities they can no longer handle on their own, such as bathing, dressing, eating, management of medications and the like. Assisted living also monitors individuals to ensure their health and safety. Eventually, the loved one might need to move from an assisted-living facility to a facility that provides a higher level of care if her/his clinical status or care requirements change.

* Costs vary from facility to facility. Rates for assisted living may be uniform at a facility or they may be adjusted for each resident based on the level of care required. While the national average cost for a one-bedroom unit is approximately $2,500 a month, this can vary markedly by geographic location. In some states, the average cost can be considerably higher.

* Some services cost extra. These generally include medications and medical supplies; physical therapy and some other skilled health services; health and beauty aids; utilities, such as cable and telephone; special meal and snack services; transportation; barber/beautician services; and pet services.

* Government funding may be available to help with costs. This funding is available through programs such as Supplemental Security Income (funded by general government revenues), Social Services Block Grants (a state-initiated program that provides financial assistance to qualified individuals) and Medicaid waivers (designed to provide states with the flexibility to cover some supportive services previously not covered by Medicaid). Check with the Social Security Administration, your local or state Medicaid Office and/or other government agencies regarding eligibility.

* The structure and size of assisted-living facilities vary. Most are based on a residential model rather than an institutional model, meaning they typically consist of independent housing units or apartments, rather than hospital-like rooms. Residents usually have the option of a shared or private room, suites or apartments in houses or complexes that vary in size.

"While assisted living isn't right for everyone, it can be a wonderful option for older loved ones who need some help with daily activities and who will benefit from the support and structure that assisted-living facilities provide," says LifeCare CEO Peter G. Burki. "One of the first steps in determining whether assisted living is right for your loved one is to visit as many facilities as possible and interview staff members and residents. Then review your options and potential choices with your loved one's physician to ensure that her/his needs will be met appropriately. Geriatric-care managers may also be a helpful resource in reviewing your options and decisions."