Housing Choices in Later Life
As our population ages, more and more living scenarios are surfacing for how to live out our lives safely with dignity, comfort and with as much control as we can maintain. Increasing numbers of older people remain in their own homes as long as they can in order to preserve their independence. The number of people living out their whole lifespans in the comfort of their homes has increased by 50 percent over the last two decades.
When living alone is no longer an option, elders often opt to move closer to adult children who can provide assistance and advocacy. Often, additional hourly home caregivers are brought in; at times, live-in roommates exchange services for rent. Full-time, live-in caregivers are another, albeit expensive, option.
"Aging in place" member-driven, non-profit, community-based organizations such as Marin Villages strive to provide the kinds of support that older people are looking for in order to continue to live in their own homes, apartments or condo's.
Independent living retirement communities serve as well-known housing alternatives for older adults. Assisted living and skilled nursing facilities come into the picture as health declines and care needs increase.
Smaller “board and care” homes are another alternative – with usually 2-6 residents. Board and care homes can be comfortable and safe environments, particularly for those older adults who do not need the full medical services available in assisted and skilled nursing facilities.
A Special Alternative for Veterans
Recently I found out about an interesting project that the Veteran’s Administration has been spearheading for several years called “Medical Foster Homes.” These homes provide an alternative to nursing homes for veterans who are unable to live safely and independently at home or lack a strong family caregiver. The homes are open to vets of all ages but the average age is 70.
Initiated by VA social workers in Little Rock, Arkansas, the program currently serves about 600 veterans and has cared for 1,500 since it began. The program has grown to operate in 36 states and is scheduled to expand to 10 more states soon. Program administrators have reported that 30 percent of veterans who would qualify for VA-paid nursing homes choose instead to live in - and to pay out of pocket for - medical foster homes. This is evidence, they state, that the vets prefer a home setting.
Living in a medical foster home is paid for by veterans from their VA and social security benefits – the monthly costs range from about $1,400 to $2,500 depending on the applicant's income and the level of care he/she needs. It should be noted that the VA rigorously screens and monitors the Medical Foster Care homes – only about 1 in 10-15 applicants is accepted.
For more information, read the full New York Times article For Veterans, an Alternative to the Nursing Home or go to the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Foster Home website. You can also call the Marin County Veterans Service Office at (415)473-6193 and speak with Marin County Veterans Service Officer Sean Stephens. Sean's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Won't it be interesting if the VA's valuable knowledge obtained as they continue to grow this popular housing solution can be translated for the general, non-veteran population of older adults? Stay tuned!