In our ongoing efforts to address the issues related to “living to that ripe old age,” we will focus this time around on useful measures that can help seniors to continue living at home.
For just about everyone, home is where the heart is and, naturally enough, it’s also where many of our family members would prefer to remain. We have written about continuing-care retirement communities, assisted living facilities and right sizing, but this article will focus on tips that will help “aging in place.”
Many of the studies that I’ve read confirm that older Americans generally prefer to stay in their own homes if it’s feasible. And industry is responding. The National Association of Home Builders (www.nahb.org), for instance, has implemented a program staffed by “Certified Aging-In-Place Specialists” who can assist older homeowners in making the necessary modifications (to address issues such as access and maneuverability) that will enable them to remain in their homes safely and independently.
Uncle Sam even provides a tax break on certain home improvements that can be claimed as a medical deduction under Schedule A (subject to the 7.5% floor) on your tax return. Individuals can claim medical deductions for the cost of special equipment installed in a home if the main purpose is to accommodate the medical needs of individuals, spouses or dependents.
If the capital expenditure on the home qualifies as a medical expense, operating costs and upkeep also qualify as medical expense as long as the medical requirement continues. The key is whether the cost of permanent improvements and/or special equipment increase the value of the home. If they do, you may be entitled only to a partial deduction. The actual increase in value of the home is best determined by an appraisal. More specific information on this topic can be found in IRS Publication 502 (www.irs.gov).
Another innovation is QuietCare® Home Health Security System. While this may appear somewhat “big brotherish,” it can provide peace of mind to seniors and their families. The QuietCare® system is composed of discreet wireless activity sensors that are placed throughout the home. These sensors, which work in conjunction with a strategically placed substation, continuously transmit information on daily activities, such as whether the senior has gotten out of bed, safely navigated the bathroom and taken their medication. If a problem arises, QuietCare® staff will alert you, attempt to contact the senior and, if need be, provide immediate assistance. The company’s toll-free number is 1-877-822-2468.
If prescription medication for your loved one is a source of concern, look into a national awareness campaign called MUST (Medication Use Safety Training). Sponsored by the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), MUST is an interactive initiative to promote safe and appropriate use of medication. Its goal is to help older adults and their caregivers avoid misuse of medications by improving medicinal knowledge, apply preventive measures to avoid errors and develop steps to manage safe, effective use of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
Older individuals and family caregivers are encouraged to use the MUST site (www.mustforseniors.org) and to participate in the program by viewing the online PowerPoint presentation, video clips and other program messages and materials.
We hope this information will help you and those you love.