For many, the notion of having to live in a long-term care facility is a troubling thought. But as difficult as the decision is, considering your future care needs in advance can provide you with valuable time to research different options and find the best match for your circumstances.

Too often, a sudden change in a senior’s physical or mental health forces families to seek a facility that can provide immediate placement rather than one that suits the senior’s preferences. If you are considering long-term care options for yourself or a loved one, here are a few tips to help you make the best possible decision:

Consider what’s important to you

When considering different home care options for your future, you’ll want to establish what accommodations you want or require in your new residence. Is the location of your facility convenient for your relatives? Would you enjoy a smaller or larger senior community? Do you want the nursing home to have a religious affiliation? Asking yourself what’s necessary for your care will ensure you choose a facility that fits your unique needs and lifestyle.

Ask trusted sources for references

If you’re not sure where to begin your search, start by asking for suggestions from your friends, relatives or neighbors. You may also consider speaking with a health care provider or social worker for recommendations of excellent care facilities in your area.

Do your research

First, you’ll want to call the nursing home facilities you’re interested in to get a feel for what life is like there as well as the cost and whether there are any waiting lists. When you find a care facility that seems to match your needs, schedule a visit to meet with the director of the operation. Be sure to ask questions and be on the lookout for signs of under-staffing or neglect.

Plan a surprise visit

If possible, try to make an unscheduled visit to the facility at a different time and day of the week than your initial appointment. This will allow you to meet with various members of the staff and see different resident activities.

Always read your contract

Once you’ve chosen the right home for you, be sure to carefully read your contract and ask the facility director about anything unclear to you. You may also consider having a friend, relative or legal professional review the contract before you sign it.

While choosing the right nursing home is a complicated process, following these tips can help ensure that you get the care and attention you deserve. With careful research and planning with your family, you can find the ideal nursing home for you.