Around 88 percent of American adults want to age at home rather than at institutional facilities. This was the finding of a study by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Chicago. The study was conducted among 1,113 respondents nationwide from March 25 to 29, 2021.
Preparing the Home for the Elderly
To be able to house the elderly safely and comfortably, the home needs to be modified to accommodate their needs. Families who plan on doing this and are just now buying a home must choose one that is already age-proof. This means that there must be a bedroom with an adjacent full bathroom and toilet on the ground floor.
Elderly people have difficulty keeping their balance and may need walking assistance equipment at some point. Stairs or even steps are dangerous. The entire ground floor must have level flooring for easy navigation, with no carpet. There must be no steps on the front door, or these must be replaced with a gentle slope. All doors on the ground floor, including the entrance, must be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
The bathroom and toilet must also be roomy enough to accommodate a wheelchair. There must be safety grab bars on the walls. The toilet seat must be raised to a comfortable level. There are raisers that can be purchased for this purpose. The tub or shower must have a safety seat. The floor must have non-skid strips. Faucets and the shower must be operated with levers designed for arthritic hands. This includes faucets in the kitchen, as well.
The room assigned to the elderly must also be roomy enough to accommodate a hospital bed if this becomes necessary in the future. When this is not yet needed, the bed must be high enough for convenience. The room must have a medical cart with drawers for medicines and supplies.
Financial Aid for Home Modification
There are sources of financial assistance to modify existing homes for the needs of the elderly. Each state has its own programs, so it is best to check with the state’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), health and human services departments, and housing and housing finance agency. Examples of these are the Home Accessibility and Repair Program in Maine and the Home Accessibility Program in Illinois.
There are special federal grants for certain groups. Veterans can tap the Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant up to $20,215, and the Home Improvements and Structural Alteration (HISA) Grant up to $6,800, among others. For those aged 62 and older who are not veterans but are rural low-income homeowners, the Rural Housing Repair Loans and Grants of the U.S. Department of Agriculture gives up to $7,500. The elderly among American Indian and Native American tribes can avail of the Housing Improvement Program (HIP) of the Bureau of Indian Affairs for up to $60,000. Certain doctor-prescribed assistive technology devices for the elderly or the disabled are paid for by Medicare.
Families can also look into private organizations that provide grants for these purposes. Some examples are Rebuilding Together and the Modest Needs Foundation’s Self-Sufficiency Grants.
Financial Assistance for Caregiver Fees, Medical Costs, and Living Expenses
Medicaid has the Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) for the elderly who do not wish to stay in nursing homes. This is also called a Medicaid Waiver and includes not only financial aid for home modifications and assistive technologies but also assistance for home care fees. These are not automatic entitlements, though, and must be applied for. They also need a doctor’s prescription for the needed modifications.
Many states call these Medicaid Managed Care programs, with their own customizations. For example, New Jersey has its Personal Preference Program (PPP) where elderly people are given funds to hire their own caregivers at home. They can even hire and pay family members for caregiving.
There are government programs that provide financial assistance for the elderly’s medical needs and daily living costs. Medicare and Medicaid cover hospitalization, outpatient consultations, the cost of transportation to medical visits, home health services, and the cost of prescription medicines. Veterans can access the VA Health Care System, as well.
The government provides federal Supplemental Security Income (SSI) in addition to Social Security payments for low-income seniors aged 65 and older. Some states add to this from their own budgets.
For food, the elderly can avail of stipends from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The program has different names in some states, such as CalFresh in California. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also has a Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program. This provides the elderly with coupon booklets to buy fresh produce from farmers’ markets and food stands.
There is nowhere like home, especially for the elderly. Being with family and staying in a familiar community provides an unparalleled level of belonging and joy. In the twilight years, these are most important.