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Check out Assisted Living Healthcare Services

Copyright © 2014 AARP. All rights reserved.

When you’re planning for your or a loved one’s long-term care, there are many things to look at in an assisted living facility (if you have decided this is the direction you would like to take). Activities, staff, environment, and healthcare options will all play a part in your search.

The healthcare services offered in assisted living vary considerably. Most common is assistance with administering medications. Some states require staff with specialized training to help with this task. Some assisted-living facilities have medical staff, usually a nurse, available 24/7 on site; others have a part-time nurse or someone on call.

Compared to practice 20 years ago, assisted-living facilities are now enrolling people with more serious chronic conditions. The National Center for Health Statistics, a government agency, reported in 2010 that 82 percent of assisted-living facility residents had Alzheimer's disease or dementia, high blood pressure, heart disease, or a combination of those conditions.

Some assisted-living facilities have adapted to the greater healthcare and assistance needs of these residents, while others have not.

If you have a chronic condition that requires frequent monitoring and checkups, be sure to ask whether you can continue to see your own doctor or what alternatives will be available, especially if you are moving to a new area.

Alzheimer's disease and dementia are conditions that require specific care and are a huge factor when making a long-term plan. A 2012 MetLife Mature Market Institute survey of long-term care costs found that about half the assisted-living facilities provided Alzheimer's and dementia care, but 61 percent of them charged an additional fee. Sometimes the special units or programs within a facility are called memory care, perhaps to avoid the stigma of dementia.

If this consideration is important in your plan, be sure to ask about the staff qualifications and training, types of programs available, and opportunities for interaction with other residents. Also ask whether behavioral interventions are used instead of psychoactive drugs, which should generally be avoided.

And care for people with dementia should be more than keeping them from wandering; it should include activities designed to stimulate their minds and keep them active.

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