Working in the senior-living industry, Emily Butler-Morton often saw a gap between what people were promised and what they actually received.

Working in the senior-living industry, Emily Butler-Morton often saw a gap between what people were promised and what they actually received.

The Talent woman wanted to do something to help people choose a senior-living community that really met their needs. She gathered her experience to put together a self-published book she called "Care Enough to Know: Keep Your Parents Safe."

Butler-Morton worked in a number of senior-living centers over the span of 25 years. "Some places were better than others," she says. "I finally decided I needed to tell people what to ask (to find the best fit)."

She says elders who are looking for a new living situation, and the adult children who help them, often don't do enough research on their own before they find themselves in a disappointing living situation.

"They don't know how to ask about food, or personal safety, or medical care," she said. "Some don't bother to ask if meals are included in the rent, or whether there's assigned seating at meals.

"They don't look in the kitchen to see if it's dirty," she says, "or pay attention to how the wait staff is dressed, or whether the floors are clean."

The range of senior-living options has expanded as the elder population has grown. Butler-Morton says people have to decide what level of care they need as well as how much independence they want to preserve. In the book she explains how to decide whether someone should move into an independent living center or choose an assisted-living center, a skilled-nursing facility, or a memory care center.

In a chapter called "Ask, Look and Do" she provides checklists that be used to evaluate a site's food offerings, costs, and medical-care options.

Talking to people who live and work at a site is important, too, she says. "You interview the residents. You interview the staff. You ask how long the administrator has been there."

Financial information beyond monthly costs also should be investigated. Butler-Morton suggests obtaining a financial statement for each site under consideration and even searching living centers by name on the Internet for any news stories that might indicate problems.

Butler-Morton recommends evaluating at least three living centers to make a good choice. For adult children who don't have the time to do that, consultants (including Butler-Morton) are available for a fee.

Butler-Morton says one of the hardest aspects of moving to senior living is knowing when it's time to make the move. That decision can be difficult because most people want to stay in their own home forever. Adult children who also are involved in the decision may not want to acknowledge their parents' declining health, or may worry about the costs of care.

"It's a decision of will, not the heart," she explains.

There's often guilt involved, too, if adult children feel like they ought to be able to care for their parents, or if parents feel like they're becoming a burden for their children.

She says the biggest issue for older people to overcome is the notion that they're moving to the place where they're going to die. Adult children need to try to help them feel better about the changes they're making.

"What they're doing is not a party," she says. "It's never really going to be like home. They have to understand that."

The book is available from online from Amazon.com for $19.95 and Butler-Morton's Web site, www.theparentcare.net.

Emily Butler-Morton also teaches a class called "Making Wise Choices about Senior Living" at Rogue Community College. The class is scheduled to meet on from 6 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 6, 13 and 20, in Room 130A at the Higher Education Center at RCC's downtown Medford campus. Tuition is $58, but a second person attending the class with you can register for free. For registration information, call 245-7616.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.