When we were younger, there’s no doubt many of us thought of our parents as the equivalent of Superman and Wonder Woman. If we ever got into any difficulty or personal struggle, they were there to lend physical and emotional support.
When those who are important to us start to slow down, it’s natural to want to provide the best support we possibly can for those who have stepped up for us time and again over the years.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are certainly viable options, but you may find that you want to keep your parents in their home. If possible, why not keep them in the place where they feel most comfortable? This post is all about resources to let seniors age in place rather than leaving their home and community.
Determine the Type of Care They Need
Anne Sansevero is a gerontological nurse practitioner and aging life care professional with over 30 years’ experience in the field. She runs HealthSense, a company dedicated to helping people with eldercare management strategies She said the most important thing to do to get started is to determine what type of assistance is needed. The best person to answer that is someone specializing in aging life care.
“The doctor won’t always be able to tell you that,” she said. “Doctors know a lot about disease processes, they don’t necessarily know about the bigger picture of needs.”
An aging life care professional will be able to evaluate needs in the home and in the community based on the doctor’s diagnosis. It’s also key to have someone familiar with the programs in your area do the evaluation as they should have the best understanding of local resources. Depending on the situation, they may also do periodic reevaluation.
Sansevero gave an example based on someone with Alzheimer’s. In the beginning stages, there are short-term memory changes. A person who is still fairly functional with activities of daily living might only have trouble remembering to take their medication. There are fairly cheap technological solutions to this including reminder apps. In a couple of years, if an individual starts to wander and get lost, then you could look into more constant supervision at that time.
Making Home More Accessible
Before we go further into types of care resources that are available, we need to discuss some basic home modifications for seniors you may be able to do to make living a little easier as your loved ones age.
You can install items like grab bars and nonskid mats that help to reduce the risk of falls in the shower. Having a lower tub-shower threshold will also help because you don’t need to take as big of a step up in order to get in and out. You may also be able to secure a relatively inexpensive shower seat.
A big part of this includes removing barriers. Widening doorways for wheelchairs and walkers could become important as well as having everything on one level. The current home may not be set up for this and it could require more extensive modification. In some cases, you might have to find your loved ones a different home to accommodate their aging.
At this point, it obviously becomes a bit more of an expensive proposition. Let’s take a look at some ways to pay for this.
Once you know what type of care is needed and you’ve done everything that can easily be done to remove barriers in the home, now it’s time to look at ways to pay for care.
First, let’s look at a couple of cold, hard facts to see what we’re up against.
Amanda Lambert is an aging life care professional who runs Mindful Aging, an eldercare resource website.
She said a good home care aide can cost as much is $20 – $30 per hour depending on where you live, and if you hire privately through an agency. If you have to hire a nurse, that cost might start at $50 and go up. A certified nursing assistant (CNA) might fit somewhere in the middle.
If you have family support, they may be able to help keep the cost down by providing some care themselves.
The type of aide that can perform the services may depend on the state you’re in. Some states allow personal care attendants to do more tasks than others. In certain states, for example, personal care attendants are allowed to administer medication in one state while another requires a CNA.
Save Where You Can
There’s a certain amount of expense to all of this care, but before you go paying top dollar for everything, it’s important to be able to take a look at economical or free resources in the community.
Sansevero said that she provides a list of resources for clients when the evaluation is done. Your aging life care professional should be able to help you. Besides that, you can take a look at your local Area Agency on Aging. There also may be nonprofits dedicated to helping seniors in your area as well as religious groups. Take a look at charities dedicated to the particular malady from which your relative is suffering.
Medicare may also pay for certain specific treatments after a hospital stay if they’re needed in the short term. For example, they might pay for three in-house visits per week from a physical therapist for a maximum of 90 days. Personal care activities such as bathing and dressing wouldn’t be covered if that was the only thing they needed help with.
If you’re a veteran or a surviving spouse, there may be resources available to you through the Veterans Affairs Administration.
In this area, Lambert said a long-term care policy might be helpful. They pay as long as a medical need exists. This is periodically reevaluated.
Medicaid may also cover some services that Medicare doesn’t, but there are strict income and asset limits. If you qualify for Medicaid, there may be additional resources on your local county level you can find.
Finding the Money
Fairly early on, you need to start thinking about a strategy to help pay for all of this. Unless you’re independently wealthy, it’s a fairly sizable investment for your relatives and possibly yourself.
Lambert said it’s important for people to get in touch with a financial planner or attorney that specializes in eldercare planning.
“If they’re looking to the possibility that they may need to qualify for Medicaid down the road, a good financial planner will do an estate plan that keeps that in mind and is able to protect some of those assets so that they won’t be counted against Medicaid,” she said.
One option you might take a look at if you don’t want to spend all of your resources to qualify for Medicaid is a reverse mortgage. If you have a ton of equity in your home or even own it free and clear, this can be an excellent option to allow you to get money based on the equity in your home and your age. You still own your home, so you can stay there, without having to make a mortgage payment.*
Reverse mortgages are also a nonrecourse loan, meaning your heirs only have to pay back what they can get from the sale of the property. They have the option of refinancing into a normal mortgage if they want to keep the house.
The best option for you will depend on both the medical and financial situation you’re dealing with. Carefully consider all avenues before making any decision.
Do you still have questions or tips to offer? Share them with us in the comments section below.
*The homeowner is still responsible for property taxes and homeowners insurance.
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