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Helping Seniors Age at Home

There is no place like home. And according to a 2018 AARP survey, three out of four Americans desire to remain in their home as they age. With the proper legal documents and proactive planning, this desire can become a reality.   

Before settling on the idea of remaining at home, consider your location. Are you close to transportation? Can your home accommodate a wheelchair; is there a bedroom on the first floor? How expensive are the property taxes in your area?

Next, do some worst case planning. Do you have the proper documents in place so that adverse health does not derail your plan to remain at home? Have you given a loved one the power to make decisions, if you fall at home or have some other health care crisis? Two of the most critical personal legal documents are a durable power of attorney (DPOA) and the Georgia Advance Healthcare Directive. All aging adults should have these documents, as they give legal authority to a designated individual to make financial, legal, and health care decisions on your behalf. If you do not have a DPOA and becomes incapacitated, a judge will have to appoint a guardian, which can be a complicated and expensive legal process.

Finally, plan for your long-term medical care. While no one wants to think about not being able to perform daily functions on their own, the reality is that 63% of Americans age 65 or older will need either in-home nursing care or long-term care at a residential facility. If you intend to remain in your home, it’s vital you have a plan for who will assist you as your health and mobility begin to diminish. Will you seek help from family, utilize Medicaid or pay for a private agency? 

If you have a family member close by, paying them to assist with activities of daily living can work well. Without a written document, however, these types of arrangements can lead to family conflict, public-benefits complications and tax concerns. Making a contract will help other family members understand clearly who provides care, what that care will be and how much money changes hands. A well-drafted written caregiver agreement is a must. 

If you do not have family who can assist you, you may be eligible for services through the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) program administered through the Division of Aging Services. The HCBS provides for Medicaid-eligible seniors to receive services such as meal delivery, home modification and repair, and chore services in their home. The HCBS program is great for helping seniors to remain in their home, but the waitlist can be quite long. And for those seniors who do not qualify for Medicaid, a private home health care agency, such as Home Instead, or Granny Nannies may be a great alternative. 

Have a discussion early on with trusted counsel and family members to address some of the challenges you will eventually have to overcome by remaining at home. Aging is not a static thing, and it’s hard to predict exactly what assistance you will need at a given time, but proactive planning can help make aging at home an actual reality.

Attorney Nicola Robinson is a partner at the SR Law Group, an estate planning, elder law and probate law firm located in Douglasville, Georgia. The SR Law Group empowers seniors to create their legacy on their own terms.