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Life in Balance: Finding the right fit for retirement living can be a challenge

Planning on how to take care of senior family members can be a challenge, but there are options when it comes to retirement living for seniors that fit a variety of needs.

There are a lot of options when it comes to retirement living for seniors, but the choice is often dictated by the type of care they need on a daily basis. 

Dr. Mary Norman, Medical Director at Highland Springs Retirement Community in Texas, helps break down the options.

One of the options is independent living, which includes places like retirement communities that offer a more hands-off experience.

"In independent living, you have a community of typically apartment type homes that are fully equipped with kitchens, and you have a vibrant community around you," Norman said. "You typically are doing your own cooking, your own cleaning." 

The second option is assisted living, where doctors can come to your loved ones and aides assist with simple tasks like monitoring blood sugar levels.

This option works well with seniors that only need some help in their daily tasks.

"You need some assistance with getting up in the morning and your medication reminders," Norman said.

The third option is skilled nursing, where nurses are available around the clock for medical assistance.

"You come from the hospital where you've just had a hip replacement for example," Norma said.  "It's a place to stay and get better and recover and get more intensive nursing care." 

Finally, there's long-term care for people who need help with dressing, feeding and bathing.  

"So for someone that may have had a stroke and requires a feeding tube for instance," Norman said.

Doctor Norman shares three key pieces of advice when it comes to choosing the right place for your loved ones.

First, ask about on-site security when talking with different retirement places.

"That provides a tremendous amount of comfort and reassurance to family members," Norman said.

Next, when it comes to cost, Norman says there is a huge range with what facilities charge families to take care of loved ones.

"Are you more dependent on a monthly cash flow where you might benefit more from a monthly fee or have you sold your home and do you have this refundable deposit that you can put down into a continued care type retirement community and pay a lesser amount on a monthly basis," Norman said.

Be very specific about your loved ones' needs because that will influence the price tag. Norman says rates go up depending on the size of the place, its location, and type of assistance that mom and dad need.

Doctor Norman's number one piece of advice - tour facilities yourself.

"What does it feel like when you walk through? Is this a place of love and joy? How is the staff interacting with the residents? This is going to be your loved ones' home," Norman said.

AARP says there is long-term care insurance. Long-term care insurance covers many of the costs of a nursing home, assisted living or in-home care — expenses that aren't covered by Medicare.  

However, policies can be expensive. Look for one with flexible options, if you can afford to do so.