Making arrangements for alternate care facilities for aging parents isn’t always left up to the parents, experts say.

In fact, more and more middle-aged children are helping their parents decide when and where to move when age or illness makes it impossible for the parents to live at home or with their children.

According to a recent article in Parade magazine written by Dr. Joyce Brothers, as well as information available at the web site, here are some things to look for in evaluating whether a parent may need to consider alternate care facilities:

  • Is your parent experiencing significant weight loss for no reason?
  • Is your parent acting suspicious of virtually everyone and everything, verging on becoming paranoid?
  • Do you notice growing social isolation? (This can be exhibited whether the parent typically is outgoing or more reserved.)
  • Is clothing selection improper or is the parent’s overall appearance disheveled or radically different from six months ago?
  • Do you notice unpaid bills or unopened letters around the house or is the parent receiving threats from utilities to cut-off service – even if there is no financial problem in the household?

If you are noticing some or all of these characteristics, here are ways to decide how much help you should offer in determining whether alternate care facilities are appropriate and how to select from among assisted living facilities, ambulatory care facilities, Alzheimer’s units or retirement facilities:

  • Before approaching your parent, consider and research the alternatives yourself, and then begin broaching the subject in a comfortable setting, such as a family dinner.
  • If there is more than one sibling, consider involving him or her in the decision – it’s important that the entire family participate in this important decision.
  • Consider the financial resources your parent (and perhaps you) has available; it may be necessary to locate long-unseen financial papers, review insurance coverage and even discuss long-term care insurance.
  • Suggest options rather than presenting the plan as if it has already been decided. Remember: Your mother or father has been running his or her life for many years, and it is both frightening and difficult to consider a radical change.
  • Allow plenty of time for your parent to consider the situation and the alternatives you have suggested. If the situation requires immediate attention, stress how much your parent’s well-being means to your own peace of mind; according to Dr. Brothers, that’s an angle many parents don’t initially consider.
  • Don’t expect an immediate “yes” or “no” to your plans or suggestions. It could be weeks or months before a parent is ready to make such a monumental decision, so it’s best to start the process well before an immediate need is noticed.

These issues are by no means comprehensive, and each family’s situation is different and must be handled uniquely.

The federal government offers some assistance in evaluating alternatives: The Eldercare Locator, financed by the Federal Administration on Aging, can be reached at 800-677-1116 toll-free from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Eastern time, or you can visit the group’s website.