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What Care Options Are Available for Aging People on a Budget?

You may be able to find trusted relatives and friends to act as caregivers by providing assistance with everyday tasks. (Getty Images)

In late 2014, Lisa Hawes’ mom, Elizabeth Hartford, went into a rehabilitative center in Eugene, Oregon, after suffering two strokes. Medicare covered part of her bill for two months of treatment at the facility, Hawes says. When doctors determined Hartford, then 91, was finished with her treatment, they told the family that Hartford would be responsible for the full bill of $8,000 a month if she remained in the long-term care wing of the rehab center. Hawes and her brother started looking for a “more reasonably priced option,” she says.

Fortunately, a county official who worked as a patient advocate provided the pair with a link to a directory of home facilities providing an array of care, depending on the condition of the resident. Hawes and her brother checked out a couple of assisted living facilities. Based on the evaluation of clinicians at the rehab center, Hartford needed a high level of care, with around-the-clock attention.

“We found a wonderful, licensed, family-run ‘adult foster home’ with a maximum of four female residents,” Hawes says. “It is a family home in a residential neighborhood that is outfitted to accommodate the elderly, run by a live-in husband-and-wife team, with their daughter as one of the additional caregivers. The residents eat their meals together at the dining table in the kitchen and sit together in the living room to watch TV, arguing over ‘Law & Order’ reruns vs. Hallmark Channel romances. The caregivers are qualified to give medications and will take residents to medical appointments or run other errands as needed.”

Finding the right kind of nursing care option for yourself or a family member can be an emotionally fraught challenge, since such transitions typically deal with the realities of losing a measure of independence. For many people, the situation is complicated by a limited budget, and the reality is that the annual median cost for a semiprivate room in a nursing home is about $85,000, says Rani E. Snyder, program director at The John. A. Hartford Foundation. The foundation disburses grants to groups that work in the areas of family caregiving, age-friendly health systems and those that provide help for people facing serious illness and end-of-life issues.

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