We hear about it every day and everywhere we go. Seniors (and future seniors) want to stay in their homes forever – or at least as long as they possibly can. As family caregivers, we want them to be safe and happy no matter where they are living.
The lifelong homes of our senior loved ones provide not only shelter, a sense of community and comfort for many but can also be a source of concern for caregivers.
The homes which have housed a generation of family memories may not have been maintained as they should and are showing their age along with their inhabitants.
Home Maintenance a Challenge
Seniors often can no longer keep up the year round maintenance that is required on a home. They may stop caulking windows, repairing loose floorboards or putting on storm windows (or never taking them off). Maybe they can’t shovel the snow off the walk or perform many of the other small and large home projects that need to be done.
While help is needed, more and more family caregivers live a distance away from senior loved ones and are unable to pitch in to do the work themselves. Hiring a trusted handyman may not be possible or practical for many either.
Let’s not forget the fact that aging adults don’t always have money for costly repairs and updates on their homes when they are deciding what part of their income goes to pays routine bills, medication or even, for some, food. Many can’t afford air conditioning in the summer or heat in the winter on their fixed incomes, which can be a real health risk resulting in negative outcomes.
Certainly some family caregivers can assist with the DIY jobs around the house or hire a handyman to help out. But not everyone has the ability or finances to do the jobs that would allow the home to be suitable for aging in place, no matter how badly seniors wish to stay there.
Programs and Services to Help
There are a variety of special programs that are available if you know where to look and who to contact. We will review some of the service programs available and where to seek more information in order to apply. Most service programs require a particular income level and will need you to make an application. As a family caregiver, this small step may yield big results for your senior loved one from your efforts.
- In Oregon there is a pilot program from the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation, or NEDCO. They provide help with home improvement projects via online and other fundraising efforts. NEDCO also provides education via webinars and classes as well as one on one help with many issues including foreclosure intervention, low interest loans, and financial education to help in the future. They realize that many seniors’ homes are suffering from deferred maintenance and require maintenance and safety upgrades to accommodate aging in place. The Oregon Housing and Community Services Department assists with the programs.
- Volunteer agencies can send handymen out to help with small repairs and other jobs like lawn mowing, snow shoveling and even homemakers. Some local agencies provide programs for seniors on a fee for service based on the ability to pay.
- College student organizations and other civic groups such as churches or scout groups provide volunteer services for cleanup and painting and other odd jobs that can be completed with little skill.
- Many state and local governments have housing authorities and programs to help seniors over 62 years of age to remain at home safely and will assist with home maintenance to protect its citizens from harm. They are usually funded by donations, grants and state money.
- Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can help with housing rehabilitation and Habitat for Humanity may be able to help with a new home or repairs to an old one. Many will assist with building ramps for wheelchair access.
- Home weatherization programs that can assist aging in place seniors with utility bills, insulation installation, solar heaters, caulking, weather stripping and heating/cooling systems. Most of us have heard of summer distribution programs of fans to cool down seniors and space heaters to warm them up in the winter. Many agencies also provide smoke and CO2 detectors to its citizens. Water conservation kits are also available. Check with your utility company to see if they offer any programs for seniors needing assistance.
- LIHEAP is a program designed to assist low income seniors with utility bills. The Department of Health and Human Services can connect you with resources in your area.
Naturally, these programs are not going to do major work such as widening doorways to make room for a wheelchair but will be able to help with routine maintenance and comfort for health.
A little bit of investigation into the community and the resources in your senior’s area will be worth your time and peace of mind as you help them stay at home longer.
Do you have ideas for more programs that support seniors to age in place that you know, have tried or with whom you currently work in partnership that you would like to share with others? We look forward to hearing from you!