Retirement Expert: Carol Marak About Assisted Living Options

Trusting your family to an assisted living facility can be a huge decision! How can you be sure that they’ll get the care they deserve?

Take it from someone who has been there. Once upon a time, Carol Marak, Aging Advocate and Editor at, worked a full-time job while simultaneously caring for both of her parents who were in need of assistance. The lessons she learned while serving as caregiver prompted her career in senior care.

NewRetirement recently spoke with Carol to learn more about her experiences.

Please describe your experience as a caregiver.

I was a family caregiver for my parents in their elderly years. Mom lived with several chronic illnesses, and my dad lived with Alzheimer’s disease. During my caregiving phase, I also worked a full-time job. Caregiving is very stressful. It cost me a lot of time away from work. Even though my parents are no longer here, I decided to stay in the field of senior care as an advocate for both seniors and family caregivers. Since the aging population is booming, it’s a great market to be in because they need so much help.

How are assisted living options different from independent living options?

ILFs (Independent Living Facilities) cater to the more independent senior, and that independence is measured by their activities of daily living. In my article, I give a more complete definition for consumers.

ALFs (Assisted Living Facilities) cater to the less independent senior. They are the ones who need help with activities of daily living. My other article explains it well too: What Kind of Care is Right for Me?

How has the increase in lock-secured memory-care facilities changed the population of assisted living?

Families who have loved ones living with some form of dementia (depending on what stage the person is at) may choose a facility for them that is totally secured or “locked down.” A secure facility will insure that a person has a minimum chance of wandering from the building.

My dad lived with Alzheimer’s, and it was a problem because when he first moved to the nursing facility, he did not live in the “Alzheimer’s” wing. He had easy access to the outside – no alarms, etc. After leaving the facility several times, the administrator moved my dad to the Alzheimer’s wing. There, it was more secure and he never wandered outside again. But that’s the reason why a family would move a loved one to the memory care wing or facility.

In addition, the family will want to make sure the relative (with dementia) is at a facility that caters to residents who have a cognitive impairment because they focus on the activities that drive brain involvement. The caregivers there also receive special training.

Who generally makes the decision to transition into assisted living care?

Both the individual and their families influence the decision to move. The senior may hesitate and the family may have to use some strong coaxing; but at the end of the day, they both should be in agreement.

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