nursing homes

Modifications Necessary for Seniors to Stay In “Peter Pan” Homes

Many seniors would greatly prefer to stay in the homes they’ve made their own over the years, rather than relocate to a nursing home. But most of our own homes just aren’t built for senior living. Whether they have poor lighting, steep stairs, cramped bathrooms with no room for assistance modifications, or all of these things and more, the comfort of a lived-in house is sometimes trumped by its dangerous qualities. These homes are often referred to as “Peter Pan” houses–made for people who will never grow old. The decision to remain in a home that’s potentially hazardous for its aging resident(s) depends on many factors.

One of them is the amount of care needed. Are they fine on their own, as long as they have phone access in case of emergency? Do they just need someone to come by now and then, perhaps to bring them groceries or help them with chores and personal care? Those people might be fine in their Peter Pan homes, with perhaps a few modifications to stairways and bathrooms to increase mobility and independence. However, if the person needs help in a significant number of their daily activities, the expenses of live-in care may be too great, and the absence of a caregiver may increase danger.

Healthcare costs for people who choose to remain at home are also a concern. Medicare doesn’t cover in-home costs, and while Medicaid might provide assistance, it’s primarily concerned with nursing home residents. Getting approval for Medicaid coverage requires state and federal approval. It also means seniors have to “spend down.” John Pynoos, professor of gerontology policy and planning at the University of Southern California, clarified the term on NPR:

“That means that you can’t have too much money in the bank, but … the house is not counted as an asset. [Medicaid] force[s] you to use your resources first. And when you get down to a low level, then you’re eligible for the program.” He explains that this is a dangerous predicament because it drains the financial resources seniors had been saving for other purposes, and then makes them dependent on the program.

There are 71 million Americans aged 65 years or older–that means 20% of the population are senior citizens. The decision to remain in a less-than-ideal but familiar house or transition into assisted living is a difficult but important one to make. Modifications may be necessary to make a senior’s current home livable for their later years, but if the cost and standard of living are acceptable, it may remain the preferred option for some.



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Lucy is a recent graduate of Western Washington University, majoring in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. Lucy tagged this post with: , , , Read 7 articles by
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