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Choosing the best eldercare option

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The American population is aging. In fact, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics, one in five Americans will be over 65 by the year 2050.

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As these people grow older, many will choose to continue living on their own or may decide to move in with family.

However, some will prefer to reside with people closer to their own age or will, by necessity, need to live in a facility that can cater to their changing medical needs.

What should you keep in mind if you must choose an eldercare facility for yourself or a loved one?

The Minnesota Society of CPAS (MNCPA) offers some tips.

Know your options

There are several types of facilities available.

Independent living options are generally intended for healthy people who want to live among other seniors in a community designed for them.

Assisted-living arrangements are meant for those who are relatively healthy but who may need help with meal preparation, personal care or other needs. At the other end of the scale are nursing homes, which generally have 24-hour medical care available and are intended for those with more serious health problems and will require regular care and attention.

What's best for your loved one?

Your choice, of course, will depend on the current state of your older relative's health and what changes you might expect in their situation in the near future.

In other words, there's no need to pay more for a facility that offers round-the-clock nursing care if it's not necessary now, but that may be a worthwhile expense if the senior has health problems.

Check the quality

Many people find eldercare facilities based on recommendations from others with family members in those facilities.

While this is a great starting point, the only way to make a final decision is to visit the facility yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Immediately on arrival, you will be able to judge whether the buildings and grounds are tidy and well maintained and seem cheerful and inviting.

Ask whether a registered dietician or nutritionist plans meals and tour the kitchen to see if it is clean and orderly.

Spend some time at the facility to see if the staff seems consistently friendly and caring to residents.

Consider location

Some seniors are reluctant to change residences, while others consider a move to be a welcome relief after years of maintaining a home.

In either case, most seniors usually favor a facility that is near to their family and friends.

To find a facility in your desired location, go to www.eldercare.gov.

Check resources

More information on choosing an eldercare facility can be found on the Web site of the U.S. Administration on Aging at www.aoa.gov and on the Medicare site under "Compare Nursing Homes in Your Area" (go to www.medicare.gov).

Medicare's "Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home" also contains useful advice on how to pay for one of these facilities.

Know your options

Keep in mind that moving into a facility may not be necessary.

Many communities offer services for the elderly, home health care aides or adult day care centers.

A medical professional or a hospital social worker or discharge official can provide some advice on alternative choices.

Information and resources are available at www.mncpa.org/information and at MyTaxTime.com, which includes tax and financial planning information for individuals and small businesses.

A free CPA referral service is also available on the Web site or by calling 1-800-331-4288.

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