Dear Savvy Senior,
Do you know of any financial assistance programs or other resources that can help seniors with home improvement projects? I would like to help my 86-year-old father make a few modifications to his house so he can live there as long as possible, but money is very tight.
-- Inquiring Daughter
There are actually a number of programs available that can help seniors with home repairs and improvement projects for aging-in-place, but what's available to your dad will depend on his financial situation and where he lives. Here are some different options to explore.
Medicaid waivers: If your dad is 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. Many of the waivers pay for home modifications to increase a person's ability to live independently. Each state has different waivers with different eligibility requirements and benefits. Contact your Medicaid office for more information.
State and local programs: Some states and local governments have financial assistance programs, often called "nursing home diversion programs," or "deferred payment loans" that are not funded by Medicaid. These programs, which may include grants or loans or a combination, helps pay for modifications that enable low to moderate income elderly and disabled to remain living at home. Modifications covered typically include accessibility improvements like wheelchair ramps, handrails and grab bars. And some may be used for home improvements like roofing, heating and cooling, insulation, weather-stripping and storm windows.
To find out if there's a program in your dad's area, contact the city or county housing authority, the local Area Aging Agency (call 800-677-1116 for contact information) or the state housing finance agency.
Federal programs: The Department of Housing and Urban Development offers HUD Home Improvement Loans, which are HUD insured loans made by private lenders for home improvement and building projects. Contact a HUD approved counseling agency in your area (call 800-569-4287) to learn more.
And the U.S. Department of Agriculture has a Rural Development program that provides grants and loans to low-income, elderly or disabled, rural homeowners for home repairs and improvements. Your local USDA service center can give you more for information.
Veteran benefits: If your dad is a veteran with a disability, the VA provides grants like the SAH, SHA and HISA grants that will pay for home modifications. See benefits.va.gov/benefits/factsheets/homeloans/sahfactsheet.pdf for details and eligibility requirements.
Another possibility that's available to veterans enrolled in the Medical Benefits Package is Veterans-Directed Home and Community Based Services. This program provides veterans who need help with daily living activities with financial assistance to help them remain living in their homes, and provides them with a certain amount of discretion to use those funds.
Non-profit organizations: Depending on where your dad lives, he may also be able to get home repair and modification services through the national, non-profit organization Rebuilding Together. They provide services to low-income seniors, veterans and military families, families with children, people living with disabilities and victims of disaster.
You should also check with the Area Aging Agency to see if any other local organizations that offer volunteer home modification help to low-income seniors.
Reverse mortgages: Available to seniors 62 and older who own their own home, or owe only a small balance, and are currently living there, a reverse mortgage will let your dad convert part of the equity in his home into cash - which can be used for home improvements - that doesn't have to be paid back as long as he lives there. But, reverse mortgages are expensive loans, so this should be a last resort.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.