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Need to determine which car you can afford? How to save for a goal? Explore these calculators to help plan for your future.

Personal vs. Professional Care

The choice between personal care and professional care can be very difficult. The time and responsibility involved with providing care yourself can be overwhelming. But the familiarity, comfort and personal interaction with someone close can be invaluable for an aging dependent. Professional care provides much more comprehensive service and won't require you to give up as much of your life. But professional care is a large financial burden and doesn't offer the same familiarity and trust between patient and caregiver.

Case Manager

A case manager can help you make decisions concerning what type of care is right for your financial, emotional and medical situation. The case manager is a referral service that, for an hourly fee, will help you develop a care plan. They can also manage the financial affairs of elder care, paying medical bills and insurance premiums, filing tax returns and other financial organization.

Personal Care

If the person in your care is in fairly good health and would feel more comfortable at home, personal care may be the right option for you. There are some support organizations available to make this task easier to handle.

Local support groups can help provide services such as home maintenance, adult day care centers, senior social centers, friend and pet visitation and meal delivery. Your employer may offer elder care benefits as a part of its total benefits package. Ask your Human Resource Manager about the availability of elder care benefits at your place of employment.

To help cope with the emotional strain home care can produce, seek a support group in your area. Often support groups can send a volunteer to give you a break from your care duties. They may also offer counseling or just someone to listen when you need to talk.

Nursing Homes

If the person under your care is unable to perform daily functions and needs more intense care, a nursing home may be a better option. But choosing a nursing home can be a difficult decision. First, prices average $40,000 a year. But cost isn't the most important issue. You want to get the highest quality care you can afford. State certification is an important qualification for a nursing home. Certification is based on level of training, health code compliance, and safety. Most insurance companies won't pay for services rendered at uncertified facilities.

Beyond monetary and regulatory aspects, how can you judge the quality of care a nursing home gives? Start by touring the facilities. Is maintenance a high priority? If the staff isn't attentive to taking care of the grounds and maintenance, they may not be attentive to the residents either. Look into the rooms to check for neatness, overcrowding, cleanliness and comfort. Does the building have an overall uplifting feeling to it?

Talk to some of the current residents of the nursing home to see what life there is really like. Most residents will have some complaints, but if all the residents you talk to have similar complaints, there might be a problem.

The staff members will have the biggest impact on the happiness of the residents, so make sure you interact with them. Are they energetic, interested and compassionate? How quickly do they respond to patient needs? Do they complain about their jobs?

Retirement Communities

Retirement communities offer more independence than a nursing home but still provide the care needed. The downside to a retirement home is the high price tag.

Congregate Care Housing

Between in-home care and a nursing home, congregate care housing allows residents to live in their own home while providing home maintenance and cleaning as well as group meals. There is a staff to look after residents and make sure they are getting the care they need.

Not A One-Time Decision

The most important thing to remember if you have a relative or friend living in a nursing home is to stay interested and involved in his or her life. Visit frequently. Get to know the people that are regular care givers. Be attentive to changes in behavior, habits or mood. If you think there may be a problem, talk to a supervisor or facility director. Keep a journal of any problems you encounter and the steps taken to solve the problems.