retirement planningRetirement planning involves more than just thinking about your personal financial goals. It also entails thinking long-term about certain family members, like dependent children or parents.

Like millions of people, you may one day face the difficult choice of moving one of your elderly parents into an assisted living facility. Once you decide that your parent needs to make this transition, it’s important to ask the right questions to ensure that he or she will be receiving the best and most appropriate care and attention.

When you are looking at assisted living facilities, make sure you are making an empowered decision that includes your parent. Listen to your gut, and ask your parent about his or her feelings as well.

Here are 11 questions you should ask before deciding on an assisted living facility:

1. What services do you offer? Ask the representative about services available to your parent, and confirm that the facility offers services that your parent requires.

2. Is my parent’s information safe? Many people in an assisted living facility will have access to your parent’s personal information—including his or her Social Security and Medicare numbers. In order to help protect against identity theft, ask how the facility keeps this information out of the wrong hands.

3. How do you handle medical emergencies? Always ask what the policy is for emergency care services. What happens if your parent has a heart attack, a stroke, or a fall? Can and will the facility provide immediate assistance before emergency services arrive?

4. How do you handle non-emergency medical services? Ask if there is a physician or nurse who will take care of physical examinations and medication distribution. Is your parent still required to see his or her primary care physician?

5. Is your facility up to date? Inquire about recent inspections and research complaints that may have been filed against the facility.

6. What is the true cost? Talk to the facility representative about the frequency of billing and insurance options. Always ask when and what will be billed, and inquire about any fine print regarding changing costs. While you are talking about the cost of the facility, it is important to address extra costs that may be required for activities and outings.

7. What is the menu like? A major factor in your parent’s health will be the diet he or she is consuming. Ask about the quality and variety of meals. Will the food provide your parents with all of the necessary nutrients and vitamins? How does the facility handle special dietary needs?

8. What happens at night? What kind of care and attention will your parent have access to at night? How does the facility handle needs and emergencies after the day staff has left?

9. What is the policy about visitors? When can people visit and make calls? Make sure you find a facility with visitation and contact policies that fit your family’s needs.

10. Can my parent go out? Always ask about taking your parent out for the day or a holiday. Can you pick up your parent whenever you want? If so, what are the rules and policies regarding taking him or her out of the facility? Does the facility give you the freedom and independence that you and your parent want?

11. How do I feel? How do you feel? Ask your parent about his or her feelings for the facility, and then ask yourself how you feel. Is the facility warm and inviting? Do the other residents look happy and healthy?

After your initial visit with a facility representative, make several unexpected visits to observe daily life and interaction. Pop in during breakfast, in the afternoon, and later on in the evening. These visits can give you a better sense of the atmosphere at the facility and help you and your parent discern whether his or her time there will be enjoyable.

Jeff Rose is a Certified Financial Planner and Iraqi combat veteran. He blogs at Good Financial CentsSoldier of Finance and Life Insurance By Jeff.