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Monday, April 24, 2023

How to Pay for Age-in-Place Support

Millions of seniors need help with the cost of aging in their home. Here’s where to find it.   

The vast majority of older Americans want to grow old in their own home. A recent survey by AARP found that 85% of people 65 and up desired to stay in their residence as long as they could. But many of us will need help doing so as the years go on. This may require home modifications, help with transportation, home health services, and other assistance as we age.

Any time we need to seek more care, we need to look at how much that might cost. After all, a set budget can only stretch so far without breaking. Luckily, there are a variety of private and government programs that help seniors with the burden of increasing needs they will face to remain living at home, whether it be one they own or rent. (For help with the cost of caregiving, see this month’s Lifestyle blog.) 

Financial Professionals Help Seniors to Age in Place 

Financial planners may find that they are helping older clients with much more than managing their money. “A lot of the [retirement-related] conversations we have with clients are around the non-financial aspects,” said Jason Siperstein, CFP and president of Eliot Rose Wealth Management in West Warwick, Rhode Island. 

Seniors have questions about how to access services they may need now or in the future, and they appreciate financial planners who can help them navigate these systems. They want to know how to use Zoom when they can no longer travel, how to call an Uber or Lyft to get to the doctor, and who to contact if they need minor home repairs, or just a little extra help.

Professionals must be aware, for instance, that although Uber has a phone number — 1-833-USE-UBER (1-833-873-8273) — it only works with texting, so it’s of no use to a client without a phone that has texting capability and a senior who knows how to use it. Better for these clients is to recommend GoGoGrandparent,  where older adults can make a call to order ride services and more from any phone.

Financial professionals need to know when to refer a client to a health advocate or local home modification specialist. Older adults look to their financial advisor as a trusted source of broad knowledge as their needs expand. “You can’t talk about money without talking about life,” notes Siperstein. 

Medicare Services

Telehealth enables you to get health services via communications technology, such as over your phone or computer. It is a lifesaver for patients who have trouble getting to a doctor or healthcare office. Your original Medicare plan will cover telehealth services through 2024 at any location in the US, including your home, at the same rate as you would pay going into an office for these services, including office visits, psychotherapy, and consultations.

Medicare Advantage (MA) plans have more leeway to provide telehealth services after 2024; be sure to research details from your specific plan. Medicare and Medicare Advantage both cover an annual fall risk assessment with accompanying  home safety assessment. Medicare Advantage may pay for the cost of needed grab bars for your shower, shower seats, traction strips, or walk-in tubs for the bathroom, or wheelchair ramps and/or hall widening to accommodate a wheelchair. Be aware that in 2023 a mere 10% of MA plans cover bathroom safety devices, and less than 1% in 2022 would pony up for home modifications.

Medicaid Services

Medicaid is healthcare coverage administered by the state for individuals who meet financial qualifications, including both income and assets. If you qualify for Medicaid, you’ll need to research what your state plan will cover. This may include basic durable medical equipment that is deemed “medically necessary,” as well as assistive technologies and tools, such as a medical alert device. For more information, consult the American Council on Aging.

Home Modifications

There are a variety of area-specific programs that specialize in helping with home modifications for older adults. Check this site to get a list of programs in most states. Rebuilding Together is another program that covers a wide swath of the US from coast to coast. Local affiliates can assist with home repair and remodeling for qualifying applicants.

Area Agency on Aging

Check with your local Area Agency on Aging office by visiting here or calling 1-800-677-1116. Get connected to find help with finances, health care, and social needs at this impressive network for senior services. Meals on Wheels can be a lifesaver for older adults, or you may find that a local senior center meets your needs for making friends and getting together. 

Veterans’ Programs

If you or your spouse is a veteran of the armed services, don’t hesitate to contact your local VA to chat about options available in your area. Veterans’ programs tend to have more autonomy in how funds are used than the majority of other government programs, so don’t lump the two together. VA services can include home health care, adult day care and even hospice. If a veteran was hurt or became ill in the line of duty, check out the Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers.

Tax Credits

The Child and Dependent Tax Credit can be claimed by caregivers for some care-related costs. This tax credit reduces your tax bill by up to $1,100 annually at the federal level. Read this AARP article for details and tips on how to claim this credit. Your state may also have a similar program. 

If you want to live where you are as long as possible, it’s a good idea to check on available services long before you need them. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when you’re planning where to spend the rest of your life, and how you’ll manage it financially. 

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional financial advice from a qualified financial advisor.