Housing is a major source of stress for many seniors, both financial and physical.

Financially, the cost of home ownership, especially for an aging home, can become especially burdensome on a fixed income.

Physically, the regular maintenance of home ownership as well as simply moving through a large home can be exhausting as well as potentially dangerous.

When the family home is no longer financially feasible or safe, seniors have several options for downsizing.

First, many seniors who are unable or unwilling to continue maintaining a large home simply may prefer to buy a smaller house. Moving into a smaller house provides a great opportunity to downsize personal property as well, forcing seniors to minimize.

A downsized house also can offer a chance to upgrade safety features. Before moving into a new house, consider adding grip bars, a walk-in shower or tub and other simple upgrades such as induction stovetops and smart thermostats. These upgrades offer seniors safer options for aging at home.

However, for some seniors, living in a smaller house still is not a good option. Care needs may determine whether living alone is feasible, even with upgraded safety features.

For them, downsizing can involve moving to an assisted living facility. Although assisted living facilities often are confused with nursing homes, they are vastly different. Residents in assisted living have their own apartments, but have numerous optional activities each day, and dine in a shared dining hall.

Many assisted living facilities are referred to as “cruise ships on land” because of the wide variety of social events. Regular nutritious meals, social interaction and physical activity are all recognized factors for the prevention of cognitive decline, which makes assisted living a good option for many seniors.

The downside of assisted living is the cost. Costs vary depending on the facility, the type of apartment and the level of care that must be provided. When considering assisted living, seniors should ask a financial advisor to run a financial projection to determine how long income and assets will allow them to live in the facility.

Although Medicaid does not pay for assisted living in Kentucky, veterans or their surviving dependents may qualify for veterans’ benefits to supplement income in order to pay for assisted living.

A third option for downsizing is to move in with a family member. Many seniors prefer a family home over a larger social environment. Especially for those whose family members are able to provide ongoing care, moving into a family member’s home can be a good, cost-effective option.

As with any downsizing option, there are some potential problems with moving into a family member’s home. Living with another person after being independent can be difficult and family members often find that caregiving is more difficult than expected. If loved ones are still employed, finding additional caregivers can be stressful.

If proceeds from the sale of the home will be used to fund necessary renovations or upgrades to a family member’s home, seniors should carefully consider possible Medicaid implications. There are good options for ensuring that investments are not penalized, but planning should be proactive to have the best outcome.

Regardless of which downsizing option is chosen, selling a home is a good time to review planning documents as well as planning to protect assets in case of future nursing home needs.

When considering a downsize, seniors have several good options. By realistically considering the care needs of the individuals, downsizing can offer upgrades that minimize risks while maximizing quality of life.

Cynthia Griffin is an elder law and estate planning attorney at Burnett and Griffin PLLC in Elizabethtown. She can be reached at cynthia@bcglawcenter.com.

Cynthia Griffin is an elder law and estate planning attorney at Burnett and Griffin PLLC in Elizabethtown. She can be reached at cynthia@bcglawcenter.com.

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