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How to Select an Assisted Living Facility

The decision to move a loved one into an assisted living facility is never easy. It often entails giving up some independence and saying goodbye to one’s home. Once you and your loved one have come to an agreement that an assisted living facility (ALF) is the best next step, it’s time to find the right one for your family member’s financial, health and lifestyle situations.

If you and your family member live far apart from each other, the first consideration may be the location of the ALF. Will your loved one move closer to you or stay near their current home? After you’ve chosen the vicinity, you can start searching for a facility.

How to Find Facilities

  • Ask for recommendations from friends or other family members who have experience with ALFs.
  • Consult your local or state Area Agency on Aging. You can find your nearest agency on the federally supported Eldercare Locator website.
  • Inquire with your loved one’s doctor for preferred nearby facilities, if staying in the same area.

Questions to Ask

When you call the facilities, you will likely speak to a salesperson who should be able to answer the following questions. Ask as many as are relevant to your situation. Use these as a guide and feel free to add more specific questions about the activities and amenities, special care your loved one may need or other preferences.

  • How many units or beds does the ALF have? Are there units with private bathrooms and kitchens?
  • Are the units furnished? Can residents bring their own furniture?
  • What amenities are on-site?
  • Is the facility pet-friendly?
  • What forms of payment or insurance programs are accepted?
  • How does the facility bill for additional services rendered?
  • Does each resident have a personalized care plan?
  • Who is on staff to tend to the residents? Staff can include nurses, physical therapists and pharmacists, as well as housekeepers, cooks and activity directors.
  • How does the ALF hire staff? Does it require a certain level of training? Does it conduct background checks?
  • If a resident needs more medical attention after moving in, can the facility accommodate a change in circumstances?
  • Can residents continue to be treated by their own physicians?
  • When a resident who needs to spend an extended period of time in a hospital or a rehabilitation center, will his or her unit be held until he or she returns?

What to Observe during Visits

After you’ve narrowed your choices down to a few ALFs, make plans to visit each one more than once. This way, you can see how the facility is run, observe the interaction between the residents and staff and speak to those who live and work there. Bring your loved one with you, if possible. Try to go during the day and in the evening so that you see two different shifts of employees. When you’re at the ALF, look for qualities and amenities such as:

  • Condition and cleanliness of the property
  • Emergency power source
  • Safety features, including fire alarms, sprinklers, call buttons and window and door locks
  • Clearly marked exits
  • Ample common areas
  • Friendliness of staff
  • Healthiness and happiness of residents

How to Read the Contract

Before you sign the contract of the ALF you’ve chosen, review it carefully. You might want to enlist an attorney or a financial adviser to take a look at it as well. Here are a few items to take note of:

  • Pay close attention to the fees, including any security deposit, so there are no surprises on your bill.
  • Look for language regarding your right to file a lawsuit. Some ALFs discourage cases against them by requiring arbitration to settle any claims of negligence or injury.
  • What is the ALF’s policy when it comes to termination of a resident’s contract? If the facility requests the resident to leave, how much notice will be given? What are the reasons that could lead to this discharge?
  • What happens if you’re no longer able to pay the monthly rent?

These guidelines are just a start to how to assess which ALF is best for you and your family member. Find trusted resources to help you make your decision, and visit often to ensure your loved one is getting the care he or she deserves.

Lifestyle

7 Easy Ways to Stretch Your Holiday Gift Budget

1. Join a Rewards Program

Many online and brick-and-mortar stores have loyalty or rewards programs that offer exclusive discounts to members. They’re usually free to join, and you rack up points with every purchase to earn free items or higher discounts. Ask about if your favorite store (or your loved ones’ favorite stores) have such a reward program at the checkout counter or look for the signup form on the store’s website.

2. Shop Through Cash-back Sites

A fairly new trend, cash-back sites reimburse shoppers after they make their purchases. These sites work partner with retailers – from department stores to designer brands – that give the cash-back sites a kickback for promoting their sales. The cash-back sites, in turn, pass part of that refund on to consumers. Two of the most popular of these sites are Rakuten and Ibotta.

How it generally works is that you register your email address with the cash-back site or download an app to get started. Then you shop through that site or app, which serves as a pass-through to the retailer, so you perform your actual transaction on the retailer’s site. However, the cash-back site calculates your rebate as a percentage of your total purchase and, depending on the app or site, mails you a check, provides a gift card, or sends you money directly via PayPal.

Some sites are more immediate with the rebate than others, so keep that in mind as you’re planning your budget and your purchases this holiday season. You might have to wait a few months to see your savings.

3. Use Coupon Codes

For an immediate discount, apply coupon codes to your online purchases or take the old-fashioned route and clip coupons for in-store purchases. Most stores also accept email coupons, as well. Just read the fine print on those before you try to use them at the cash register.

You can find coupon codes for items on your gift list by doing a quick online search. Once you have discovered a code, take a minute to check its validity. It might have expired or only apply to certain purchases. If the code is good, you’ll need to copy it and paste it into the appropriate field on the website during the checkout process. Sometimes the field is called Promo Code, Discount Code, or another similar name.

You should see your total cost change as soon as you hit the “apply” button, saving you money instantly that you can put toward another gift.

4. Buy Gently Used Items

Does someone on your list have high-end taste? Or do you have a lot of kids in your family? Consider shopping at local consignment stores, checking resale sites and apps like Poshmark (focused on fashion) and Mercari (with everything from electronics and home goods to name-brand accessories), and joining Facebook groups that resell what you need. Toys, children’s clothes, and designer handbags are just a few items you can snap up for a bargain. Just check the condition carefully and, in the case of toys, do your homework on possible recalls before you buy.   

5. Bundle to Save on Shipping

Many online stores’ sites these days have free shipping for standard delivery on every purchase, but others require you reach a certain spending level before the shipping fee is waived. If you think you’ll have multiple gifts to buy from the same site, order them at the same time to ensure you meet the minimum total. Alternatively, if you’re just under the threshold and have no other needs from the site, see if there are small stocking stuffers you can add to your cart that will push you over the edge. You could also ask if a neighbor or friend wants something from the same site and place the order together to save on shipping.

Another option that’s available at national merchants, like department stores and electronics retailers, is in-store pickup. You can order the items you want online and arrange to have the items sent to your local store. This service doesn’t charge a shipping fee in most cases.

6. Subscribe to Email Lists or a Free Trial Membership

When you first visit a retail website, you might notice a popup asking for your email address in exchange for a one-time discount, often 10 or 15 percent off your first order and sometimes free shipping is included, too. Even if you personally have no interest in the store’s products – say you’re buying the latest video game for your teen nephew – sign up with your email address, preferably one you rarely use. You can always unsubscribe from the site’s emails after you’ve retrieved your discount code.

Similarly, if a site you’re shopping on has special perks for people who buy annual memberships (think free expedited shipping on everything as an example), you might want to see if there’s a free trial membership for a short period of time. If there is, do all the shopping you plan to do on that site during your trial window. Mark your calendar to ensure you unsubscribe before the site charges you automatically for a yearlong membership.

7. Comparison Shop and Price Match

Don’t be afraid to hunt for the lowest price on an item, especially electronics. You may discover the exact same products for much less at one retailer versus another. You can decide to purchase from the retailer whose price is the lowest. But if you favor the competitor whose price is higher, ask if they have a price-match guarantee. Many big-box stores have some type of policy where they meet or even better another retailer’s price on an item. Restrictions and requirements usually apply, so pay attention to what you need to present at the store to get your discounted price at your preferred retailer.

With these money-saving techniques, you can stretch your gift-giving dollars this holiday season.

Lifestyle

Planning for Retirement: What to Do When You’re No Longer Working

Make the Most out of Your Retirement

Some people know exactly how they want to spend their retirement years and others haven’t given much thought to their post-career lives. If you’re the latter, we have put together a few suggestions for how to occupy yourself during your hard-earned leisure years.

Volunteer

Do you have a favorite cause that’s near to your heart? Reach out to a local organization that serves that cause and find out how you can help out. Often, there are a variety of needs – anything from fundraising to carpentry, depending on the charity – so you can choose a volunteer position that suits your skills and interests.

If you still have a passion for your career, share your business experience and knowledge with students. Contact your city’s Junior Achievement office or your neighborhood high school to explore mentorship opportunities.

You can also search for organizations by interest, like family services or environment, and location on the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps website.

Take up a New Hobby

Have you always had an interest in an activity that you haven’t had the time to pursue? Or maybe you want to discover a side of yourself. Picking up a new hobby could be the solution for you.

  • Sign up for golf or tennis lessons at your local recreation center or sports club. You can likely purchase inexpensive, used equipment at a yard sale or sporting goods resale store. Dance, yoga, and even self-defense classes are other possibilities.
  • Teach yourself how to paint or register for an art or craft class at your local college, museum, or art supply store.
  • Take music lessons and perform for family and friends, become a member of a band, or just play for your own enjoyment.
  • Start or join a gardening club, a quilting bee, a book club, or another group to share your new interest.

Of course, these are just a few ideas to get you started. Keep an open mind and know you don’t have to commit to any one hobby. Have fun trying out new things. You never know what you will end up loving to do.

Go Back to School

If you love to learn, consider enrolling in a course or two – or even earning another degree, if you have the inclination and the means. Many community colleges offer continuing education programs with courses in everything from foreign languages to art to computer skills. You might find a new passion and meet new friends while exercising also your brain.

Travel

Once you’re retired, you don’t have to ask for time off or limit yourself to a one-week vacation, so the world is your oyster!

  • Explore the United States by driving cross-country. Consider buying or renting an RV for comfort and convenience.
  • Create a bucket list goal, like visiting all 50 states, every national park, or even every continent.
  • Go on a cruise – or many. You can choose from sailings that last only a few nights and world or transatlantic voyages.
  • Look into travel groups for people in your age range and interests. Organizations like AAA and AARP, as well as your college alumni association and perhaps your neighborhood association, might have such groups already in place.

Be sure to take into account your finances, your health, and other personal factors before making a large commitment regarding your retirement plans, but also remember to have fun dreaming and planning for your future.

Lifestyle

Planning for International Travel

Going abroad, whether it’s for the first time or you’re an experienced traveler, always requires extra preparation. We’ve put together a checklist to help you get ready for your next overseas trip.

Have the Necessary Documentation

The most important documentation you will need is your passport. If you haven’t traveled abroad in a few years, check the expiration date on your passport weeks ahead of time. That way, you will have enough time to renew it if necessary. Keep in mind that your passport must not expire within six months of your trip. Also, if you have had a name change since you obtained your passport, you will need to update it with your current legal name.

Some countries, including Australia and India, require visitors to have visas in addition to valid passports. Check with your travel agent or tour operator to see if you need a visa and how to apply for one. Starting January 1, 2021, American travelers to 26 European countries will have to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System.

You should also print out your travel documents from your tour operator or, if you planned your own trip, the hotels, cruise line, and other arrangements you’ve made. Store the paperwork in a safe place should you need to refer to it. You might not always have internet access.

If you’re planning to drive during your travels, you might need an International Driving Permit and additional auto insurance.

Secure Travel and Medical Insurance

An international trip is an exciting but expensive adventure. While it’s not likely, you could encounter a variety of situations prior to or during your visit that would add to your costs or even cause you not to go at all. Having insurance in place can prevent you from losing money due your or your travel companion’s inability to travel, a medical issue in a foreign country, or other circumstances.

There are three main insurance policies you want to investigate and possibly purchase before you go.

Trip cancellation insurance reimburses you in part or in full for your flights, cruise passage, or other transportation if you aren’t able to travel. Check the policy carefully for what is covered, what reasons are considered valid, and what paperwork is required to prove that you couldn’t travel.

Travel insurance will compensate you for your expenses in the event of travel delays, flight cancellations, or lost luggage. Your credit card or even your homeowners insurance provider may offer this type of insurance.

The third policy to consider is health insurance. Even if you have a good plan, it may not help you once you cross the border. For instance, Medicare doesn’t carry over to foreign countries. Some private health insurance plans might be usable abroad, so check with your provider to see if your plan is. Those with Medicare or a private insurance policy that won’t work overseas can purchase a short-term supplemental policy. Ideally, this policy will pay the hospital directly so that you won’t have out-of-pocket expenses or a lot of paperwork afterward.

Pack Your Carryon Carefully

Bring any medications, necessary toiletries, and a change of clothes on the plane with you. You will find them useful on overnight flights or in case your luggage is delayed. You might also want items to help you sleep, like an inflatable pillow, and something to keep you occupied while you’re awake, such as a book or e-reader and headphones to listen to music or an in-flight movie.

Gather or Purchase Necessities

Refill and pack prescription medications, along with over-the-counter remedies like pain relievers and indigestion aids. Borrow or buy voltage converters to enable you to use your electric devices, such as your phone charger and hairdryer, in your destination.

Make Financial Arrangements

Visit your bank to acquire a small amount of money in the currency of the country where you’ll be traveling. If you visit a small shop that only takes cash, you need to tip someone, or you lose your credit cards, it will be good to have money on hand.

Also, inform your financial institution and your credit card company of your travel plans and set up alerts for unusual transactions, in the event your card is compromised. You will also want to make note of the contact information on the back of your credit and debit cards so that you can immediately inform the issuers if your cards are misplaced or stolen.

Practice the Native Language

If you’re going to any countries where you’re not fluent in the native language, learn a few key words and phrases so you can communicate with the locals.

Following this checklist will help you have a safe and pleasant journey abroad. 

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