Four years of depressed housing prices are forcing older adults to postpone moves to assisted living and continuing care retirement communities (CCRC), and to live longer in homes that may no longer serve their needs. As a result, thousands of older adults are doing without needed services, according to a recent article in Kaiser Health News.

The Waiting Game 

Arizona Baptist Retirement Centers, a LeadingAge member in Phoenix, reports that residents are coming to its CCRC much older and frailer because they are taking longer to make move-related decisions. When they do move to the CCRC, older adults who’ve sold their homes at a reduced price are trying to save money by purchasing fewer services than they need.

The housing slump is also affecting homeowners who need skilled nursing care but can’t qualify for Medicaid until they’ve exhausted nearly all their assets, including their home equity. Federal Medicaid rules allow states to exempt a home from the financial eligibility test as long as the family is making a good-faith effort to sell. But, if states don’t enforce that exemption, older homeowners may not qualify for Medicaid until their homes change hands.

Depending on Families 

In some cases, family members are digging deep into their own savings to make sure their parents can move to assisted living facilities before a home sale. When that’s not possible, family members must either take on caregiving responsibilities themselves or, like Rosemarie Eck, depend on the charity of nonprofit organizations. Eck couldn’t sell her mother’s Chicago apartment or pay the cost of assisted living out of her own pocket after her mother had a severe stroke. But the Bishop Conway Supportive Living Residence, a community owned by Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago, agreed to give Eck’s mother a free room until the apartment sells or she qualifies for Medicaid.  

"This has all been quite an education," Eck told Kaiser Health News. "Bishop Conway is our only assisted living possibility. The other places all insisted on my paying, and I’m barely making it myself.”