Home Adaptations for Independent Living


Money, money, money

Posted on March 5, 2011 at 10:45 AM
Rising costs and lack of public subsidies have made assisted living facilities expensive.  According to the Genworth 2010 Cost of Care Survey, the national median monthly cost of an assisted living facility (one bedroom, single occupancy) is $3,185 per month.  In general, 75% of this cost is paid by residents out of personal funds or family assistance.  The national median daily rate for nursing home care is $185 for a semi-private room, $206 for a private room or approximately $70,000 per year.  About 1/3 of all nursing home residents pay from their own funds.
Contrast that to the cost of renovating your home.  A small ramp will cost under $500.  Bathroom remodeling, including replacing the tub with a walk-in shower, should run approximately $15,000. For those who might need a stairlift, they can be found for under $2,000 on up depending on the configuration of your stairs. Bottom line - for well under $20,000 you can prepare your own home for your future needs.
So the big question is how to pay for home modifications.  In today's market most people are experiencing a loss of equity in their homes which makes a line of credit or a reverse mortgage not feasible.  Medicare does not pay for any home renovations - not grab bars, comfort height toilets, non-slip floor coatings, wider doorways or accessible vanities.  Instead, Medicare will pay for medically necessary durable medical equipment as prescribed by a doctor.  Translated this means that wheelchairs, toilet commodes and shower benches are covered but none of these items are particularly attractive or add any value to your home.
There are, however, some resources that might help defray the costs of accessibility modifications.
1. Long Term Care Insurance.  While traditional health insurance does not provide for home modifications, many long term care policies include some coverage.  If you are a senior and had the foresight to have purchased long term care insurance, check out your policy.  If you are a baby boomer,  make a note to yourself to investigate the benefits of a long term care policy.  Given the increasing cost of health care and the age to which we now live, long term care insurance might be something you want to carefully consider.
2. Department of Veteran Affairs.  The VA has four types of home modification programs depending on the level of disability.  For more information on these VA grant programs or to obtain grant application forms, you can contact the VA at 800-827-1000 or visit the VA's website at
3. Community Development Block Grants (CDBG).  The Community Development Block Grant program enables local governments to undertake a wide range of activities intended to create suitable living environments, provide decent affordable housing and create economic opportunities, primarily for persons of low and moderate income.  Contact your local county or city government to find out the status of money available for accessibility modifications.
4. Tax Savings.  Tax deductions are allowed for certain modifications such as the installation of ramps, widening doorways, modifying kitchen cabinets,  installing bath fixtures, etc.  To do so, the cost of the modifications must be treated as a medical deduction and be certified by a physician as being required for health reasons.  The renovations also can't add to the property's overall value.  Check with your accountant for details.
5. State Assistive Technology Projects.  Several states have initiated home modification programs through their statewide Assistive Technology program.  These programs can provide trial equipment as well as low-interest loans for the purchase of assistive technology or home modifications for individuals with disabilities.
6. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The USDA has created the Rural Development Home Repair Loan and Grant Programs (aka Section 504 programs) to provide assistance to those who live in areas with a population less than 10,000.  This program offers low-interest loans to homeowners of all ages and grants to those aged 62+ who meet certain income criteria, in order to help with home repairs or modifications for disabilities.  Check out
7. Area Agencies on Aging (AAA).  Some Area Agencies on Aging have funds to modify homes.  Contact your local AAA to find out if programs are available in your area.
8. Centers for Independent Living.  The term "center for independent living" means a consumer-controlled, cross-disability, non-residential private non-profit agency that is designed and operated within a local community by individuals with disabilities and provides an array of independent living services.  These centers provide information and referrals on how to get funding in your area.  To locate a center near you, visit
We're frequently asked to help locate funding for clients residing outside of Florida.  If you know about other funding sources for home modifications that are particular to your locale or state, we'd all love to hear about it. 
  Susan Luxenberg
  HomeSmart LLC

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