Independence for Seniors Comes at a Price
As we age we hope that we will maintain our health and independence. Some plan for the possibility that this might not be the case. Others cross their fingers and hope all goes well. People are living longer than their parents or grandparents did and with this longevity comes the risk that you will need assistance with activities of daily living, transportation and other day-to-day responsibilities to continue living at home.
Many seniors facing challenges from cognitive or physical disabilities are fortunate to have loving families close by that have the time and motivation to provide the assistance they need to continue living at home. For seniors without family close by in home services can assist with tasks that the senior may no longer be able to manage and allow them to live independently. Paid caregivers can help around the house with cleaning and home maintenance, assist with meal preparation, provide rides and even help with pet care. Adult children of seniors who live at a distance often use caregivers as their “eyes and ears” to keep them informed about parents who may be declining. Caregivers also can bring companionship and comfort to seniors who are living alone after losing a spouse.
Homecare can truly be a lifeline for seniors but few of us plan for the eventuality that we will need some help as we age. Seven out of ten will need some sort of personal care after the age of 65. Many mistakenly believe that government programs will cover the cost of long-term care or in home assistance. Medicare only covers very limited nursing assistance if you are coming home from a hospital stay. If you need help to stay living in your home, things like assistance with bathing or meal preparation, rides to the doctor or shopping, in most cases you will have to fund these services yourself unless you have a long term care insurance policy. Medicaid/MediCal does pay for minimal assistance but only for those with a very low income. Unfortunately, the Medicaid funded in-home care services are very limited and typically have long-waiting lists. Medicaid covered services usually won’t be enough for a senior with high care needs who wants to stay at home.
If you are still in your middle years it makes sense to start exploring options for protecting your assets if you or a spouse needs assistance as you age. Forbes online has a good article about long term care insurance considerations.
If you or a senior loved one are already dealing with care needs some options to explore include:
In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) programs – available in each California County – provides for limited homecare services for Medi-Cal eligible seniors
VA Aid and Attendance Benefit – covers home care and assisted living for seniors who have served in the military and their spouses (must have served at lease one day during a wartime period and have been honorably discharged) – in general cost of care must exceed seniors monthly income to qualify.
Reverse Mortgages – for seniors who own their own home, a reverse mortgage can provide the extra income a senior needs to pay for the services they need to stay independent in their own home. This may be an option for seniors who are “house rich and cash poor.” visit the AARP’s Money and Work section for more information about Reverse Mortgages
Combination of Paid Help and Family Support – often seniors can afford some in home assistance but not enough to stay living independently. Family members can work together to help out by providing services to their parents or sharing the cost of the paid services needed to allow their parents to continue living at home.