It seems unfair: we live our lives, raise our children and build our lives with the hope that our home is where we live our final years. Sadly, medical problems occur, and most oftentimes the elderly must be placed in an unfamiliar environment, away from everything they know. Aging in place might have been the goal, but it doesn’t always work out that way. Are there better solutions?
The reality is that we’re living longer, enjoying one of the most advanced times in medical discoveries, we’re better educated on how to live longer and healthier and despite tough economic times of recent decades, we’re still faring well in our retirement efforts. So why aren’t more of us aging in place? Few, if any of us, plan a future that includes a nursing home or even a gated retirement community. We want to live the entirety of our lives by our own rules.
Fortunately, there are those taking notice. From a construction, service industry and medical perspective, the focus is on an opportunity to fill those needs and the shift in population trends. Those who can meet the challenge and demand are the ones who will be at the forefront of what growing old in America ultimately looks like.
The National Aging In Place Council (NAIPC) describes it this way, “Aging in place is much more than being in an environment of choice as one gets older; it means a home – a place where emotional and functional needs are met.”
Indeed, the National Association of Home Builders says this is the second largest influence on home design both today and in coming years. But in order for these service industries to meet the challenge, many are saying a universal design element must be accommodated – and things are definitely happening on that front as well:
Flexibility – A design feature that quickly adapts to say, the use of a wheelchair is a must. It also has to be simple with a quick transition plan.
Size and space matters – A small living room that can’t accommodate a future that could include a wheelchair isn’t going to bode well in a universal design. Easy access to all areas in the home is at the center of this universal design movement. Also, more and better placement of electrical outlets is a must, especially if there comes a time in home care becomes necessary. Lower cabinets, pull bars in hallways and showers and wider hallways are a few of the must-haves.
The Medicaid Factor
Medicaid pays, on average, $150 a day for nursing home care, but people without Medicaid could be paying as much as $200 or $300, according to the senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs for the American Health Care Association, David Gifford, MD, MPH. AHCA advocates on behalf of the needs of the long-term care community.
Clearly, there are financial considerations that play into the aging in place dynamic. Despite the changes in the American healthcare policies, there remains a lot that’s unknown.
From a financial and estate planning perspective, the benefits are tremendous as it could change the way assets are treated and even the possibility of bypassing Medicaid in its entirety and along with it, the five year look back period as well as not having to unload assets in order to qualify.
It’s a movement that’s still in its infancy, but to be sure, it’s beginning to move on its own momentum.