Independent Living - Options

Independent living for an elderly parent is often achieved with the help of family, friends and community resources.

Understanding what it is and what services are available to those who wish to continue living independently will help caregivers of the elderly make wise choices when it comes to need and potential for supervision.

Independent Living Services

Most communities around the United States today have some type of senior citizen services that enable an elderly person to stay in his or her home or apartment longer. Independent living offers seniors the ability to maintain a modicum of independence without being fully reliant on services or others for their care.

Some common independent living options available today include:

* ECHO housing -

utilizes a modular home or structure to temporarily be placed on the property of a family member, although such scenarios are not allowed in some communities. ECHO housing is a modular home that measures approximately 500 square feet and may cost about $25,000. Children of elderly parents may also consider converting garage space into a senior apartment.

* Senior apartments -

designed for independent elderly residents and often sponsored by charitable organizations or government sponsors for individuals on low income. Subsidized apartments generally accept low income residents, while others may rent apartments for approximately $300 to $1,500 a month. Senior apartments offer independence and privacy but do not offer maintenance of the home. Some offer housekeeping, laundry, transportation and meals and sometimes social and recreational activities. However, children of elderly parents should understand that some senior apartments are not well maintained and that long waiting lists are common.

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Independent Living Facilities for seniors

* Retirement communities -

such communities may offer mobile homes, cottages or apartments for individuals and include a range of care from total independence to assisted living, and in some cases, units for individuals who require nursing home type care. Such communities can be expensive, making this option usually available only to middle or upper income individuals. Such communities generally require residents to be in relative good health when contracts are signed, so planning for such facilities should be made early.

Services and Costs

Depending on geographical location, services and costs of independent living facilities or apartment complexes vary. Extra fees may be charged for laundry, housework, and transportation, as well as meal service. Cost for independent living facilities and communities may range between $1,000 and $4,000 a month, or $20,000 to $100,000 a year. Subsidized senior housing or Section 8 Housing offers governmental help in meeting such costs, where the elderly parent will pay portions of the rent and the government will fund the rest. Rent is based on the ability to pay, and is usually determined by a percentage of income.

Individuals receiving Section 8 funding must have limited assets or income to qualify and waiting lists are long.

Long-term care insurance, pensions, Social Security retirement benefits and Supplemental Security Income may help provide some costs of care. Medicaid generally will pay for custodial care but not medical care. While eligibility requirements differ between states, limitations on assets maybe as low as $1,500 in income to as low as $600 a month or less to qualify. In most cases, an individual will not be able to maintain ownership of a home or vehicle to qualify for Medicaid.

Some individuals may qualify if he or she is over the income limit by paying monthly deductibles that are called "share of cost". That means the individual may have to pay the difference between actual income and the income limit of that state when it comes to medical care costs. In addition, such care is limited and often restricted. Private health insurance and Medicare generally pay for only medical care and do not help with housing costs. Medigap does not include custodial care coverage.

Bottom Line

Senior apartments, shared housing, and community living environments are the most common of independent living scenarios for many seniors. Elderly persons and children and caregivers should carefully examine various options before making life changing decisions regarding senior housing and living arrangements.

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