When we think about long-term care for our parents or—gasp!—ourselves, it tends to be in somewhat stark terms. We imagine a generic, colorless nursing home with strange smells and an antisocial nursing staff. Whatever our fears, no one looks forward to long-term care, but the truth of the matter is that when the day comes, there are plenty of choices.

These days there are more options than ever for long-term care communities. Because seniors can have a wide range of needs, different facilities are available to meet those needs. Since most older Americans don’t look forward to moving out of their home, choosing a facility that offers as much independence as possible is key. Here are some of the choices available:

Independent Living. These communities offer seniors who don’t have serious medical issues the opportunity to live in apartments, townhouses or single-family homes where they receive some basic services. These services can include housekeeping, delivered meals and social activities. Additionally, there may be security services and limited on-site health services.

Assisted-Living Facilities. Assisted-living provides an added degree of service. 24-hour assistance is available for seniors who need help with basic daily activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, taking medicine and keeping house. There are a variety of assisted-living housing options including single or shared rooms and apartments.

Nursing Homes. For those who have serious health problems and need skilled nursing care or rehabilitation services, nursing homes are appropriate. Nursing homes are staffed with registered nurses and have doctors on call. A nursing home can provide round-the-clock care and the highest level of health services.

Continuing-Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs). These communities offer an assortment of living options including independent living, assisted-living and nursing home care. Each type of care is typically provided in a specific facility or section of a large community campus. Residents can enter at any level of care. If a resident’s health deteriorates to the point where a higher level of care is required, he or she can be transferred to a different facility within the same community.

If a live-in facility is not right for you or your family member, there are services for home care available as well as community support services to help lighten the load for family caregivers. The Department of Health and Human Services can help you find long-term care resources in your area through their Eldercare Locator.

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