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Doctor K: Numerous care options for elderly

DEAR DOCTOR K: My elderly father lives with my family. But I have my own health issues and don’t think I’ll be able to care for him much longer. What are my options for long-term care?

DEAR READER: When I was in medical school, there were basically two options for long-term care: People moved in with their kids, or they were cared for in nursing homes.

There are now more options for people like your father. There is a much better chance today that you will find something that suits your father’s medical condition and his degree of independence.

Senior apartments and subsidized senior housing enable residents to live independently while receiving help with tasks such as shopping and laundry. The buildings are designed with the elderly and wheelchair-bound in mind.

In an assisted-living facility, your father would live independently. But he could receive assistance with daily tasks as well as nursing supervision.

Continuing-care retirement communities offer skilled nursing care and allow you to increase services over time. They have different types of living arrangements for people with different levels of independence. They often have a common kitchen and cafeteria where residents can get food. Your father might start with an independent apartment and a bit of extra assistance. Over time, he may need to take advantage of increasing levels of care.

To learn about local options, contact a local agency on aging or a social worker. Finally, visit several facilities before making any decisions.

You’re wise to start planning now. Planning ahead gives you a chance to thoroughly research your options. And it allows time to move up the lengthy waiting lists you may find at many of the better facilities.

Dr. Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. Go to his website to send questions and get additional information: