Parents gripe about the difficulty of finding good child care. But then, when kids grow up, they agonize even more over finding homes for parents who can no longer live alone. Whether you're looking for a retirement community or a special nursing facility, local community or Web-based services can help you target a place in the right neighborhood -- at a price you can afford.
"When someone tells us they need to find a place for their parents, we find out what the elderly people need in terms of assistance and what they want," explains Grace Gillis, director of social services at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif. "You need to zero in on the parent's health conditions and their functional limitations."
Gillis recommends that you contact the local hospital's social services department first. If there's no local hospital, call the Eldercare Locator at (800) 677-1116. It will put you in touch with your Area Agency on Aging, which knows about local resources.
"Most seniors want to live with or near family," Gillis says, "and most children want that, too." If your parents are staying put or moving in with you, investigate in-home services such as Meals on Wheels or visiting nurses. If no one can be home with the senior during the day, consider a supervised day facility.
If in-home care isn't possible or desirable, social workers can help you find the right facility. It might be a retirement community, where there are many conveniences but little medical assistance; an assisted living facility for seniors who need help getting around, but don't need intensive nursing; a nursing home for seniors who require 24-hour skilled medical care; or a group or "foster" home overseen by a caretaker. When you're evaluating places, Gillis recommends you get references and talk to people who live there. The facility should be clean, and the staff should look like they're enjoying themselves. Ask if the facility performs staff background checks and try to find a local ombudsman who tracks complaints about facilities. You can find more tips at AplaceforMom.com, which also has a handy checklist for assisted living needs.