Assisted Living Needed: Where Do We Even Start

Advice and Help : Assisted Living Needed: Where Do We Even Start

It is often a big relief when the decision is finally made that either you or a family member needs the extra help available from assisted living, CCRC, or nursing home. But before you move into that  facility there are many more steps and hurdles that must be crossed .  Most families are overwhelmed with the choices, the costs, and the many unknowns at this point. This article will help you get through that initial feeling of helplessness.

The good news is that there is a lot of help out there, and it is relatively easy to find. The government, and Medicare in particular, has done a very good job of providing resources to help.  Here are some of the key considerations and the resources you need to make decisions along the way.


1. What type of facility is right for me, and where can I find out about facilities in my area? has a good discussion of the various kinds of facilities available. has a directory of eldercare facilities for over 400 towns.  But perpaps the best reference is Medicare's Eldercare Locator. With that service you just enter your zip code or city to find all kinds of resources and facilities in your area.

2. What considerations should I keep in mind when choosing an assisted living or eldercare facility?

There is plenty of help on this topic, fortunately. has a practical Assisted Living Checklist that is a good place to start. We also have a free eBook on "Practical Guide to Choosing an Eldercare Facility".  Again it is Medicare which has the most comprehensive help for choosing an assisted living facility - "Medicare Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home". These resources go into considerable detail about what to think about in making your choice. But a lot of what they recommend is common sense - investigate the places you are thinking about and apply a liberal dose of common sense.

3. How can I tell if the facility is any good - and how does it compare to other facilities in my area?

One of the advantages of past scandals in the nursing home industry is that the field is now very tightly regulated and inspected, both on the federal and the state level.  The results of these inspections is readily available, in fact Medicare and some states like North Carolina make it possible to see ratings and comparisons for every facility in your area right on the web. Medicares' Nursing Home Compare lets you instantly find ratings of nursing homes (and most CCRCS) by proximity, location, or name.  Florida and North Carolina have similar tools.  Obviously you don't want to rely blindly on these ratings; you will want to do your own due diligence.

4.  How much do these eldercare facilities cost, and what resources are there to pay for them?

The best place to start on costs is to ask the facilities you are considering.  Make sure you are comparing apples to oranges, which will require some care. Here is one resource to help find out nursing home costs by state.  Medicare has an extensive list of resources to help some qualified people pay, and it also has extensive guidelines about what and what is not covered by Medicare.

5. What kind of documents should we have prepared as the family resident becomes unable to take care of themselves, or has a serious health crisis?

Everyone entering assisted living, a CCRC, or a nursing home facility (as well as those being cared for at home) need several documents. One is a durable power of attorney that permits a trusted family member or friend (with designated backup) to make medical and financial decisions for the senior. A living will, often called an Advanced Health Care Directive, is also key to clarity when important health decisions are made. In the absence of such documents, invasive and often unwanted treatments are usually mandated.

6.  What other resources are out there to help?

Check out the list of resources and eldercare inks here at  These helpful links not only list government  support resources, but a large number of associations and non-profits dedicated to helping people age with dignity and safety.

7. What are my rights as a resident and as a family member?

Thanks to laws passed in many states there are very detailed lists of what your rights are as a nursing home resident (and often family care givers too). You should look for those rights to be prominently posted in any facility you consider. Chief among those are the right to be treated with respect, consideration, dignity, and full recognition of his or her individuality and right to privacy.