It’s never an easy task to find senior housing for a relative, close friend or yourself. The decision is often the result of failing health and the search is frequently accompanied by a sense of sadness.

Keep in mind that people going into elder housing are likely to be better taken care of than they were before — and may even be happier as a result of making new friends and having less responsibility than they previously had.

It’s difficult to know what to look for when shopping around for a housing option. An elder care professional can guide you through the options and help you decide which are best suited for the person who needs the facility.

Basically, there are three type of senior housing options, each appropriate for a different level of care:

1. Independent Living Retirement Communities

These facilities can offer such conveniences as meal preparation, housekeeping, transportation and security. They are particularly well suited to people who can live on their own and don’t have any specific needs for medical care.

2. Assisted Living Facilities

If a person needs some medical care, an assisted living facility might be a good choice. In addition to all the services of an independent living facility, this type of housing can provide help with managing medications, and, when necessary, with bathing, grooming and dressing. Facilities can range from apartment-like settings with live-in health care professionals on call or more institutional environments.

3. Nursing Homes

These facilities offer continuous round-the clock nursing care as well as other support services for the person who needs a great deal of care. If you’re looking into nursing homes, ask specifically about the way emergency care is provided, including the availability of physicians, staff certification in CPR and the qualifications of the nurses providing direct patient care. Investigate the way a nursing home deals with family visitation issues and the care of patients with conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

You can gather valuable information about elder housing from state or local offices on aging, physicians, nurses, and other health-care providers, hospital discharge planners, social workers, and relatives and friends of people who live in senior housing.

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, visit each facility a couple of times, giving particular attention to:

Cleanliness. Be sure the place is clean and hygiene isn’t being neglected. Also, check to see that there is adequate attention to assisting any residents who need help with personal hygiene.

Staff. Determine that there are enough employees to provide the personal attention residents need. Is the staff friendly, helpful and performing their duties well? This includes medical personnel, maintenance and kitchen staff too.

Services.
 The residence should provide for any special needs. Ask about the costs of supplies and services. Determine whether the fees seem fair, how much the regular fee increases are, and whether there are any hidden charges. Tour the facility during a meal to make sure residents are offered enough food in a relaxed manner.

When it comes time to consider long-term plans for a loved one, an elder care professional can help you investigate housing options, along with the creation or revision of estate plans and related issues.

Final note: If possible, keep the person who needs the housing involved in the decision-making because you want them to be satisfied with the final choice.