More Americans want to stay in your home as they grow older now than in past years. But it gets harder to do things on your own and you find that you may need assistance with everyday tasks.
Staying at home can get expensive, prohibitively so. Some people, including family members, will tell you to sell your home and move to an assisted facility or a nursing home.
More people want to stay at home as long as possible
After a shift toward assisted living, now the shift is moving back to the home.
How can you make it possible to stay independent at home and also keep that stay safe and healthy?
There are other options. You may not have considered a reverse mortgage. Check out The Truth About Reverse Mortgages. If you’ve owned your house for years, you may have built up a lot of equity. Equity is the difference between the appraised value of your home and what you owe on any mortgages. A reverse mortgage can help you convert some of your home equity into cash and continue to live at home for as long as you want. Using the equity in your home can seem like a good idea, but there are risks and concerns. Significant differences exist between different types of reverse mortgages that are available and the specific terms require careful consideration. This is a decision that you better consider carefully and with solid professional guidance, because your home may be your most valuable financial asset.
Another option is making your home safer and better for you. You home has to be safe and comfortable, and fit your needs. With relatively few modifications, you may be able to stay in your home longer, perhaps much longer. To do that, you must plan ahead. Try answering these three questions: 1) Do I want to stay in my home? 2) What resources do I have and need to help me stay in my home? and, 3) How long can I continue to live at home? Safety.com has articles and resources that can help. Read A Bathroom and Shower Safety Guide for Seniors for ideas that can help in the bathroom as well as in your kitchen and closets such as tips about lighting, clutter and keeping items within easy reach. You should also check out fall and medical alert systems. A good starting place is assistedliving.org and its page on the best medical alert systems. To check it out, click here! In fact, check out the entire Assisted Living site which has helpful articles and links on many topics.
Check our Resources for You section to see what different services are available for you. But accept reality; if it is too difficult or potentially dangerous for you to live by yourself, you should consider other options, such as a retirement community or assisted living.
Factors to Consider:
The community where you live and certain aspects of your home itself may make aging in place possible – or impossible. Consider these factors to see if staying in your home makes sense:
- Changing needs
A house that was ideal for your life and lifestyle 20 years ago may now be more than you can handle by yourself. Older homes often need costly maintenance, upkeep, and repair. A smaller home may require less work to keep clean.
What used to be comfortable may now be too cluttered and could present an unsafe obstacle course or risk of falling. A home with many pieces of furniture, area rugs or steep stairs is an accident looking for an opportunity to happen. And it isn’t just your home, you have to consider your neighborhood. Unsafe neighborhoods may trap you at home.
If you do or will soon need a cane, walker or wheelchair, you will almost certainly need a bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, grab bars in the bathroom, and you may need ramps for the entrance of the house. You can fix some of these conditions by modifying your home. The Idlewild Foundation can help you locate qualified professionals who can help. If you want to search on your own for a contractor to help with ramps, grab bars around toilets and tubs, hall railings or other improvements to make your home safer for you, we recommend you search for a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. You can search the National Association of Home Builder’s website and narrow down the search to your state and city or region and hopefully find multiple capable and trained contractors. In the Tampa Bay area as of early 2019, there were six contractors listed.
A trip to the grocery store, pharmacy, or church can be a major problem when you cannot drive, or even when you are not comfortable driving at night. Do you have nearby family and/or friends who can and will help?
- Support at Home
The most common help at your home is a home health agency. Professional services like this in your home can be very costly. Many providers charge by the hour and have minimum charges. While this may cost less than living in a nursing home or assisted living, these expenses can add up over time and empty your savings. Just a few hours of help from a home health aide in the morning and at night, could easily cost more than $100 per day.
- Support from Family and Friends
Many older folks depend on family and friends for help. There is nothing wrong with that but the time and emotional strain this can place on family relationships should never be ignored. Family and friends man be available to provide transportation, run errands for you, and/or help with minor work on your home.
Know what you can and cannot afford. Review your finances carefully. What you can afford will be a very important part of your decision about whether you can or should remain at home.
Good planning includes budgeting. Have a budget and know what you can and cannot afford to do. List your monthly income and expenses. Include the inevitable home repairs and maintenance, replacement of appliances and those other things that always happen at the worst possible time. Then do the impossible, look into the future for what will change as you continue to age.
If you own a life insurance policy, consider whether you really need it. You may need the death benefit to pay for final expenses and for a memorial service. As an alternative, you may be able to cash in a policy (if not a term life policy) to have money for home support. If you have very limited finances, you may be eligible for government programs. Do not be afraid or too proud to ask.
Other Housing Options
Much will depend upon your health. Living with a major medical condition can be very difficult. You may have to change your residence if you can no longer fully take care of yourself, manage the home on your own, have had several falls or other accidents, or need round-the-clock supervision. You may reach the stage where you no longer want all the work and responsibility that comes with living at home.
Can you live with one of your children? Think this through carefully and make sure they are fully willing. Will your children have to make changes to their house, such as adding grab bars or building a ramp? Who will pay for expenses such as increased electricity, food, laundry and transportation? Are you willing to lose your independence?
Fortunately, there are many housing choices available for seniors in a state like Florida. 55+ neighborhoods and apartments make it somewhat easier to live independently. Many offer services transportation and social activities. In assisted living, you can live in a private apartment but receive the help of cleaning, maintenance, upkeep, and even laundry in some facilities. Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), or life care communities, offer a full range of services from independent living, to assisted living, and nursing care, allowing you to remain in one facility as you age.
Multiple services are available to help you chose the facility and make the decisions you will have to make. For some additional help, go to Aging in Place by clicking here. Aging in Place is an online resource hub for seniors and their families to learn more about the specific aspects of aging in place. You can visit their one stop shop for expert know-how in order to make the best decisions about in-home care, insurance, government assistance, and other financial resources, transportation options, and home remodeling. Or call The Idlewild Foundation and let us help. Please call us at 813-264-8713.
About the Author
John Campbell has retired from a 40-year legal practice as a trial attorney in Tampa. He has served in multiple volunteer roles at Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, Florida, where he met Jesus. He began serving as the Executive Director of the Idlewild Foundation in 2016. He has been married to the love of his life, Mona Puckett Campbell, since 1972.