Most retirees want to age at home or around loved ones. In fact, 88% of Americans surveyed in a new study said they would prefer to receive any ongoing living assistance they need as they age at home or in a loved one's home, according to the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. However, aging in place may necessitate health-related home renovations, especially for those with mobility challenges or other health issues that make it difficult to navigate a typical household.
Making home improvements for a safer and more accessible environment can be costly, and you may wonder whether Medicare covers such expenses. Original Medicare coverage pays for hospital stays; Medicare Part B, which has a deductible, covers doctor's visits and other types of medical care. However, Medicare typically does not pay for home modifications.
Even without assistance from Medicare, though, you can find alternative free or low-cost options for common health-related renovations you may be considering as you age in place.
Common Health-Related Home Renovations
Here are some common aging-in-place home modifications you might consider as you or loved ones age:
- Walk-in tub/shower. Medicare doesn't pay for walk-in tubs, walk-in showers, installation or other bathroom modification costs. The cost for a walk-in tub ranges from $2,000 or so for a basic option all the way up to around $20,000 for a two-seater with luxury features. On top of that cost, installation may range from $2,000 to $10,000, depending on plumbing modifications or repairs needed.
- Wide doorways. Medicare will not cover the cost of widening doorways; however, doing so can provide easier wheelchair or walker access.
- Wheelchair ramp. Medicare generally won't pay for a wheelchair ramp, including the costs of materials and installation. However, some Medicare Advantage plans may cover a wheelchair ramp as a necessary home modification. Many cities have agencies and organizations that offer free wheelchair ramps to qualified citizens, too.
- Grab bars and bed rails. Adding grab bars to your bathroom, hallway or other rooms reduces the risk of falling and serious injuries. However, because grab bars aren't considered durable medical equipment, Medicare does not cover them. Medicare coverage does include hospital beds prescribed by a doctor that may include rails already attached as part of the bed.
- Stair lifts. Medicare coverage doesn't typically pay for the cost or installation of this accessibility tool.
Where To Find Financial Assistance
By exploring your options beyond Medicare, you may be able to find help paying for home modifications that allow you to age in place.
- Look through state Medicaid waivers. Your state Medicaid program may have a waiver that covers bathroom or other home modifications.
- If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, ask your insurance provider if your policy covers home modifications. If not, consider switching to a policy that includes home modifications coverage.
- Search online for local and national agencies and organizations that offer assistance with home modification costs using search terms such as "help with home modifications for seniors." Also check with your area's Agency on Aging, which may be able to refer you to a local organization that can help.
Don't Rule Out Moving
If you downsize to another home, make sure the house or apartment has aging-in-place design elements such as wide doorways and a shower with a low entry threshold. You may want to consider moving to an apartment in a senior independent living or assisted living community, where apartments typically come equipped with wide doorways, wheelchair access and a walk-in tub or shower. Keep in mind that with senior living, you'll also save on certain expenses, such as property taxes and homeowner's insurance.
Before making any home modification decisions, do your research and consider shopping around for a home or senior living community. Whether in your current home or somewhere new, you can age in place in comfort.