Housing alternatives for senior citizens


By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

If you’re a senior citizen looking for housing alternatives or a caregiver searching for options for a senior in the Diocese of Davenport, Milestones Area Agency on Aging can guide you to resources.

“We’re like a first stop for information. A lot of people think we do direct service. We can point you in the direction you need to go,” says Karen Coats, Family Caregiver Specialist for Milestones Area Agency on Aging.

The agency has offices in Burlington, Davenport and Ottumwa and serves individuals ages 60 and older along with individuals living with disabilities ages 18 and older. The service area covers these counties: Appanoose, Clinton, Davis, Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Keokuk, Lee, Louisa, Lucas, Mahaska, Monroe, Muscatine, Scott, Van Buren, Wapello, and Wayne.


When it comes to housing options, seniors may not be aware of what best meets their needs at a particular point in time. These definitions could help initiate the decision-making process.

• Assisted Living — provides housing with services to three or more individuals in a homelike setting. Services many include but are not limited to health-related care, personal care (bathing, hy­giene, grooming, etc.), and assistance with instrumental activities of daily living such as housekeeping, chores, shop­ping, transportation within the community, etc.

• Nursing Home — provides extended health care services and rehabilitation services for people whose illnesses or functional impairments make them unable to care for themselves.

• Retirement communities — are designed for senior citizens who are relatively healthy. Communities are in apartment, townhouse or condominium settings. They provide minimal or no assistance with health care. Many, but not all, require a buy-in or entrance fee.

• Skilled nursing — programs offer in-home services of Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses for recently discharged hospital patients and other frail or disabled persons. Services are performed in accordance with the scope of nursing practice laws and associated rules.
Coats notes that assisted living apartments can cost as much as $3,000 a month, which is not covered by Medicare. “Assisted living is strictly private pay.” Independent living apartments in Milestones’ geographical coverage area are income-based, meaning seniors pay a portion of their income — approximately 30 percent — for rent. On the flip side, market-rate apartments are less plentiful, she said. Many of the independent living apartments are located on the same campus as assisted living housing.

Cost is the first question on most people’s mind when investigating housing options, Coats says. That’s information seniors and their families need to obtain on their own. Although Milestones doesn’t track costs, “We keep name, address and the different things that every (facility) provides.”

She’s also been asked for advice about when to move an aging parent into an assisted living apartment or nursing home and what happens when that individual’s money runs out. Each senior’s situation is unique. If money has run out, “Sometimes they can move in with a family member, or maybe their health has declined and they need a nursing home. They could apply for Medicaid to pay for the nursing home.”

Coats advises families to look at all the options and to take a tour of each facility or apartment under consideration. She provides a checklist so that people know what to look for in terms of safety and other issues involved in apartment living, assisted living or nursing homes.

Remaining at home is also an option for some seniors needing assistance. “There are a lot of home care agencies that can come in and do anything from housekeeping and errand running to personal care (showers, getting dressed and medication management, for example).” Costs vary. Transportation services are available, but seniors need to remember to plan ahead. Home-delivered meals may be obtained through Milestones. “We have a large senior nutrition program and lots of congregate meal sites and we do home-delivered meals. Here in Davenport, we’re one of two providers. The other is Scott County Meal Service. In most other counties, it’s us,” Coats said. The agency provides one meal at lunchtime and can prepare a sack lunch for weekends.

To learn more about housing alternatives and other services offered to senior citizens, call 1 (855) 410-MAAA or visit the website: www.milestonesaaa.org.

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