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Monday October 18, 2021

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Financial Assistance for Aging-in-Place Improvements

Do you know of any financial assistance programs that can help seniors with home improvement projects? I would like to help my grandparents make a few modifications to their house so they can continue living there safely, but they live on a fixed income.

There are a number of financial aid programs available that can help seniors with home modifications and improvement projects for aging-in-place, but what may be available to your grandparents will depend on their financial situation and where they live. Here are some different options to explore.

Medicare Advantage benefits: While original Medicare does not typically pay for home improvements, if your grandparents are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, it may offer some aid for modifications based on need. Contact their Medicare Advantage provider to see if this is available.

Medicaid waivers: If your grandparents are low-income and eligible for Medicaid, most states have Medicaid Home and Community Based Services waivers that provide financial assistance to help seniors avoid nursing homes and remain living at home. Each state has different waivers, eligibility requirements and benefits. Contact your Medicaid office or visit Medicaid.gov for more information.

Government assistance: Many state governments and several agencies within the federal government have programs that help low to moderate income seniors who are not eligible for Medicaid with home modifications. For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers HUD Home Improvement Loans by private lenders. Contact a HUD approved counseling agency. You can call 800-569-4287 or visit hud.gov/i_want_to/talk_to_a_housing_counselor to learn more.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a Rural Development program that provides grants and loans to rural homeowners. Contact your local USDA service center or visit offices.sc.egov.usda.gov for more information.

Many states also have financial assistance programs known as nursing home diversion programs. These programs, which may include grants or loans or a combination, help pay for modifications that enable the elderly and disabled to remain living at home. Covered modifications typically include accessibility improvements like wheelchair ramps, handrails and grab bars.

To find out if there are programs in your grandparents' area, contact the city or county housing authority, the local Area Aging Agency (800-677-1116) or the state housing finance agency – see NCSHA.org/housing-help.

Veteran benefits: If either of your grandparents is a veteran with a disability, the VA provides grants like the Specially Adapted Housing (SAH), Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) and Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) grants that will pay for home modifications. Visit Benefits.va.gov/benefits/factsheets/homeloans/sahfactsheet.pdf for details and eligibility requirements.

Some other VA programs to inquire about are the "Veteran-Directed Care" program and "Aid and Attendance or Housebound Benefits." Both programs provide monthly financial benefits to eligible veterans that can help pay for home modifications. To learn more, visit VA.gov/geriatrics or call 800-827-1000.

Nonprofit organizations: Depending on where your grandparents live, they may also be able to get assistance in the form of financial aid or volunteer labor to help with modifications. You should check with local nonprofit organizations to see if they offer programs in your grandparents' area.

Another option is a community building project that may provide volunteer labor to help seniors with home improvements. To search for projects in your grandparents' area, do a search online with the phrase "community building project" followed by their "city and state."

Reverse mortgage: Available to seniors age 62 and older who own their own home and are currently living there, a reverse mortgage will let your grandparents convert part of the equity in their home into cash that can be used for home improvements. A reverse mortgage does not have to be paid back as long as they live there. Note that a reverse mortgage may impact the ability of the heirs to inherit the home. Use caution because reverse mortgages are expensive loans, so this should be a last resort.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published October 15, 2021
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