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Picking the right new home

The time may come when part-time help won't do; when your parents' home is unsafe, or they are lonely, or far from their support network, or need round-the-clock help at home. Unless they are quite well off, and can afford to hire full time help, it may be time for a different housing option.

Trying to decide where to live as one grows older present's new challenges for many older adults. Anticipating your needs is difficult because how one ages and how long you will live is unpredictable. However, the average life expectancy is growing longer and with increased longevity the potential for chronic health conditions which may threaten independence also increases.

Changing circumstances such as the death of a spouse, debilitating illness or the limitations of a fixed income may force a change in living arrangements. Hasty decisions can result in a series of disruptive and difficult transitions for a person who is already frail and vulnerable. The personal dilemmas of deciding where to live are compounded by a constantly changing marketplace. Planning for and choosing a suitable place to live as you grow older deserves careful thought and a serious, on-site exploration of the housing options available long before retirement.

Making a good decision regarding where one chooses to live is important and can be difficult. Don't wait until there is a crisis to gather information. The best decisions are usually made without time pressures. Incorporating the help of friends and relatives not only gives one the opportunity to share the work of a search and move but also provides a ready support group to discuss what the move means to each of them.

By systematically considering available choices, you can compare the strengths and weaknesses of various options. It is important to be as open and honest about what is absolutely needed or wanted and things that are open to negotiation. Know the personal likes and dislikes — a small, homelike residence which gives individual attention and care may be ideal for one person and may be hated by someone else. Sometimes the ability to continue with a hobby or have a pet accompany the person guides all the decisions that need to be made.

Take stock of what is most important in the individual's life and make sure this can be maintained, if at all possible. Know and visit the various choices — make sure that you look at the options from the point view of the individual who will be one individual who will be living there. After a scheduled tour and obtaining the general information, make an unscheduled visit later to see if there are any differences. Pay special attention to the convenience of: location, visiting hours, visiting areas, food, types of care rendered, staffing, daily activities, religious activities and safety/security issues. Don't be afraid to make as many trips back as necessary to get all your questions answered.