Of all the decisions we make in a lifetime, few are as personal or emotional as the one to move yourself, a spouse, a parent, or another loved one to an assisted living facility. We often go to great lengths to find the right carphone, or refrigerator to meet our specific needs, so it goes without saying that choosing a residence we can trust to offer compassionate care to a beloved family member at a vulnerable time of life is of the utmost importance. With medical care growing more sophisticated and the population growing older, the average age of new assisted living residents was 84 in 2016—and assisted living facilities now account for 17 percent of America's senior housing, a 33 percent increase from just five years ago. What's more, these residents tend to be sicker than previous generations.

With all the stress that can come from caring for or paying for the care of an aging loved one—a responsibility that research reveals falls disproportionately on adult children, especially daughters—it is vital that the assisted living marketplace operates in a way that puts the needs of consumers first. But as this industry grows, obstacles still remain that can prevent us from making the best choice for our family and getting the peace of mind we need.

This month, in "Elder Care and Assisted Living: Who Will Care for You?," we'll provide insight and resources that allow you to better determine the quality, value, and safety of facilities you may be considering—and we'll update you on the importance of having meaningful staffing and training standards, greater price transparency, and the establishment of "resident rights" so that you can make this difficult decision with confidence and clarity.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the October 2017 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.