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Aging in Place: Unlocking the Possibilities

Old and young person holding hands.By: Camila Cal, SeniorLivingGuide.com

Every senior should have the choice to decide where to live as they age. Some may want nothing more than to move to a senior living community, while others may prefer to stay at home. These choices may be different, but both require a level of caregiving necessary for the senior to live a comfortable and healthy life.

However, the choice to age in place is often fraught with complicated questions: How can a family member be a caregiver and have a full-time job? How can the senior keep up with housework if they are disabled or have mobility issues? What exactly is Home Health? And are there any resources that can help? It can often feel like answers are locked away and out of reach.

Luckily, Tonie Quick, owner of A Caring Choice, a Medicaid service provider for Structured Family Care based in Atlanta, joined this month’s episode: SeniorLivingGuide.com Podcast to answer these frequently asked questions and to unlock the many resources available to seniors that want to age in place.

Quick emphasized the importance of knowing exactly what aging in place means: a senior that wants to live at home instead of at a senior living facility, such as an assisted living community. Aging in place would be considered family living instead of group living. There are many benefits to staying at home, including being able to spend quality time with family members. Quick explained that many seniors tend to fare better health-wise when living at home, perhaps due to increased comfort levels or familiarity with their caregivers.

But oftentimes, choosing to age in place can be difficult for the senior’s family members if the family doesn’t have sufficient support. The reality is that being a caregiver is a full-time job. And as much as a family caregiver may love their senior, the bills won’t get paid unless they are being compensated for their time. Many family caregivers have no choice but to work another job to maintain financial stability, which often compromises the senior’s quality of SeniorLivingGuide.com Podcast Bannercare. Aging in place can be difficult for the senior as well because they find themselves not being able to take care of their homes like they used to. As aging occurs, it becomes hard to clean an entire home and cook nutritious meals, not to mention the various needs for home repairs that may arise.

Fortunately, there are resources that can aid seniors and their families. Medicaid can be a huge help! While Medicaid programs differ from state to state, Quick said that she was most familiar with Georgia’s programs, which offer several opportunities for seniors to be able to age at home. Structured Family Care is a Medicaid program that pays the family caregiver up to $1,600 to care for the senior or disabled person on Medicaid. To qualify, seniors must be at a long-term care level of need and live with the family caregiver (defined as family by blood or marriage). Because this program is relatively new, many seniors don’t know about it. Quick encouraged everyone to look into if their state offers Structured Family Care.

Companies like A Caring Choice provide Structured Family Care and serve as a bridge between the applicant and Medicaid. Because they maintain a close relationship with the family, they know when to request special services like respite care, where Medicaid will pay for the caregiver to take a break. A Caring Choice also provides additional education if necessary, such as hygiene, lifting classes, first aid/CPR, and more. Families find comfort in these companies because they always have someone to call if they have a question or concern! Those who are having issues navigating in other states can search for similar companies that help them obtain these resources.

Other programs like Home Health, where Medicaid allows home health agencies to send assistance to the home, can be beneficial, too. Examples of home health services include skilled nursing, physical and occupational therapists, and personal care aides that can assist with cleaning, cooking, running errands, etc. There are home modification and repair programs offered that send professionals to fix any repairs necessary in the home such as painting, leaks, and other general repairs.

Often, Medicaid programs are at no cost to the senior. However, in certain instances, a senior’s income may be too high, and they will need to cost share (pay a small fee) to receive the Medicaid services. Programs are available nationwide but vary statewide, so availability depends on what your area offers. As with most Medicaid services, cost and resources offered depend on qualifications and income.

These services are all a Google search away, but if the senior would rather speak to someone about what programs are offered in their area, there are plenty of resources to reach out to. Quick said that in Georgia, most seniors typically start with an ombudsman, which is a local government employee/agency that can facilitate services for seniors. Your local Agency on Aging would also provide resources in the area and provide a point of reference for where/how seniors should start to apply to these programs.

While the Medicaid programs sound to good to be true, applicants should be aware that government services are not always the easiest to navigate. Because so many other people need government services, call wait times are often very long and can be taxing for a senior. Quick suggested having a family member wait on the phone for the senior until they are transferred to an agent. She also recommended becoming familiar with your Medicaid case worker because they can best navigate the system and answer any questions. Another tip: have a list of questions ready to make sure you get all of them answered (and to minimize the times you have to call back)!

Approval may take 3-6 months after the application process. Quick emphasized that although it may be labor-intensive to obtain information about these programs, when you do get the information you need, having these resources will be life-changing and well worth the wait.

These programs are specifically made for seniors that desire to stay at home. If you qualify, make sure to take advantage of them. With a little patience and perseverance, aging in place comfortably is possible!

For more senior and caregiver resource podcasts, visit SeniorLivingGuide.com Podcast or they can be found, listened and downloaded most anywhere you enjoy music or podcasts such as Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Podchaser, and more!

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