All too often, the move to long-term care (LTC) is made in response to a crisis. The family is caught off guard and they’re unprepared for this major life change. But in most cases, the need to make a senior housing choice could have been an- ticipated and planned properly. How can seniors and their families do a better job of looking ahead and mak- ing the move less reactive and stressful?

Don’t wait for the emergency.

Our natural tendency is to believe that there is going to be plenty of time to think about LTC op- tions. In many cases, the need for assistance isn’t considered until something happens. When a loved one is discharged from the hospital and can’t return home safely, you will need to make a quick deci- sion while under significant stress. Faced with an emergency, you may not have time to evaluate all the options and make a truly informed choice. As a result, adult children uproot their lives and relocate to be near their aging parents. It can be difficult to convince a spouse, partner, parent or other loved one to be pro-active when they’re still fairly healthy and robust. But the harsh reality is that tragedy can happen anytime. The alternative to planning ahead means facing major life-changing decisions under extreme pressure and that can lead to some serious negative consequences.

Find out what’s in your area.

Most seniors prefer to remain in the local community they’re accustomed to. As we get older, we may need more help with our daily activities. In these cases, assisted living may be an option. Assisted living is a type of LTC that helps monitor your health and assist with daily activities. Research what assisted living homes are in your vicinity or are close to your aging loved one. Some parish and state agencies for health or aging have lists of assisted living providers. But don’t rely solely on the internet or online reviews. Once you’ve identified a few potential providers, set up a tour to find out first-hand the details of what is included, as amenities can differ greatly between homes.

Cost of care.

The costs of assisted living can vary depending on your location and the level of care you need. Assisted living is a step between living at home and living in a nursing home. It blends health monitoring and help with daily activities while providing as much independence as possible. Although assisted living is often paid for out of pocket or through a long-term insurance policy, remember it is an investment in your health, safety and well-being. Overall, assisted living is much more affordable than a nursing home. It’s important to note that If a higher level of care is needed, benefit plans such as Medicare may pay for the outpatient medical services and cover the cost of necessary medical equipment.

More reasons to plan ahead.

Those worried about the costs of moving into assisted living may also want to consider the hidden, often overlooked costs of living at home. At this stage of a senior’s life, they’ve probably paid off their mortgage. However, there are maintenance and costs of running a house to deal with. Repairs, replacements, upkeep costs and security systems can add up to quite a lot. Costs that may be incurred in making elder-related modifications to a house should be factored in, since only about one percent of homes are suitably equipped for elders.

In closing, having a plan in place does not mean making a shift right away. It is about considering options and knowing what is needed. It is about planning for future happiness and well-being. Plan ahead so that a senior and families don’t find themselves saying “We wish we had done this sooner.”

Michelle Lovitt is the owner of Audubon Care Homes®, located at 4713 Dreyfous Avenue in Metairie. For more information and to schedule a personal tour of Metairie’s newest home, call 290-1717 or email