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Disabled and/or handicapped older adults face challenges every day that others often don't understand or even think about. Despite these challenges, they strive to live as independently as possible and want the same opportunities and choices in their lives as those without disabilities.

According to the American Community Survey, slightly more than 25% of Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 reported living with a disability and 50% 75 and older reported the same in 2015.

These disabilities, the most common functional type being mobility limitation – defined as serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs, may result in the need to choose assisted living as their housing option.

Assisted Living for Disabled and Handicapped Seniors

According to the United States Census Bureau, a disabled person is someone who has difficulty performing functional tasks or activities of daily living (ADLs). Glen Fujiura, professor of disability studies at the University of Illinois, states, “The government definition takes in a lot of people who don't fit into the common idea: people in a wheelchair who've been there for most of their lives.” In fact, 90% of disabilities are invisible, and two people with the same type of disability may experience their disability differently; however, they often still require special living space modifications and/or arrangements in order to live a full life.

Assisted Living Housing Options for Disabled and Handicapped Seniors

Title II of the American Disabilities Act (ADA) passed in 1990 demands equal housing opportunities for the disabled at state and local levels. Since the ADA was passed, housing and housing options have increased and improved dramatically for people with disabilities.

There are many types of disabilities impacting people in different ways and to varying degrees. Disabilities loosely fall into 4 categories:

  • Physical disabilities affect a person physically often causing problems with mobility.
  • Sensory disabilities affect the senses and include blindness and hearing loss.
  • Intellectual disabilities cause difficulties in communication, learning and retaining information.
  • Mental illness affects behaviors, thinking and emotional state.

Of these categories, typically only two impact housing needs – physical and sensory.

The ADA has made a positive impact on the lives of the disabled and handicapped senior, ensuring that entrances into most senior housing options now include ramps and handrails and those with multiple stories have elevators. Therefore, housing options for disabled and handicapped seniors include:

  • Assisted living communities, also referred to as supported care facilities, provide care to older adults who are unable to live independently, often needing assistance with ADLs. Most offer private and semi-private apartment-style living often containing a living area and kitchenette.
  • Adult family homes, also referred to as board and care homes or residential care homes, are often pre-existing traditionally-built single-family homes that have been modified for the needs and safety of older adults. Adult family homes provide a very home-like environment to between two and nine non-related residents. Private and semi-private bedrooms are available, with the rest of the home being shared. Care is generally provided by live-in caregivers. Services and care types vary widely from home to home, some specializing in very individualized care. Their small size enables them to more easily cater to the needs of their clients with high staff to resident ratios.
  • Traditional nursing homes offer the same supportive environment as assisted living communities, but generally also offer skilled nursing care in a portion of the facility. Most offer private and semi-private dormitory-style or apartment-style living options.
  • Skilled nursing facilities address complex medical conditions requiring high-care needs. Medical and rehabilitative care is provided round-the-clock by professionally licensed staff. Modern skilled nursing facilities offer private and semi-private rooms in a home-like environment.
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) offer a full continuum of care from independent living through skilled nursing. Residents generally must be able to live independently upon move-in, but some cover increased care needs with increased fees.  Housing options in a CCRC often include cottages, townhomes, condos, duplexes and apartments.
  • Special Needs Trust Ownership of a Home (Payment or Rent) allows home ownership or rental, managed by a trustee for their beneficiary. They can also pay for other things, such as caregiver services, enabling the beneficiary to live independently. Home ownership through a special needs trust comes with a large set of rules and responsibilities.

Cost of Assisted Living for Disabled and Handicapped Seniors

The costs associated with these living options can vary tremendously. All costs are affected by location, services offered, level of care required and type of living space. All costs generally include housing, utilities, maintenance and upkeep, housekeeping and laundry services, meals, some form of transportation and all scheduled activities.

Monthly housing costs:

  • Assisted living generally ranges between $2,500 to $4,000.
  • Adult family homes usually offer the lowest cost of assisted living options with the average price falling between $1500 and $4,500. Specific care needs may have an additional cost, and varying care needs are offered in the home.
  • Nursing home care varies considerably since it provides assisted living and skilled nursing services. The average cost ranges between $2,500 and $8,000.
  • Skilled nursing may seem costly, but it represents the lowest cost setting for 24-hour professional skilled nursing and rehabilitative care running between $4,000 to $8,000.
  • The cost of a CCRC can be substantially higher. Most require a one-time entrance fee (like a down payment). The monthly fee varies as residents move between care levels. Multiple payment options are available.
  • The cost of home ownership through a special needs trust includes the price of the home, any necessary home modifications needed and hiring a caregiver (if needed). The cost of hiring a caregiver typically runs between $20 and $40 per hour.

How Disabled and Handicapped Seniors Pay for Assisted Living

Most assisted living options are private pay, but Medicare and Medicaid cover the costs of medically necessary care that is recommended and certified by a doctor. Care received in a skilled nursing community and skilled nursing care offered in a nursing home or CCRC is generally covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Not all Adult Family Homes take Medicare or Medicaid.

People with disabilities can often receive funding assistance from the following:

Locating Assisted Living for Disabled and Handicapped Seniors

There are many ways to locate assisted living housing options. These include:

Assistive Devices for Living Spaces to Increase Independence

People with disabilities use assistive devices in the home to enable them to be more independent. Examples of common assistive devices are walkers or canes which are used to assist with walking and to provide support to the body to remain upright. Assistive devices improve quality of life and increase independence. Let's look at a few assistive devices that can be used in the home.

  • Voice recognition products
  • Door knock signalers for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Large print keyboards or large display clocks for visually impaired
  • Adaptive and assisted clothing to make dressing easier
  • Modified keyboards such as LUCY
  • Computers that offer assistance
  • Apps like Sesame Enable that make a phone or tablet a touch-free device
  • iRobot's robot vacuums and mops make cleaning the floors effortless.

Here are a few companies that offer assistive products/devices:

MaxiAids and EnableMart offer a wide range of products to assist with dressing, low vision products and tools for the blind, hearing products and devices for the deaf, and much more.

Companies like HIMS, Talking Tablet and Tobii Dynavox offer assistive technology devices to help people communicate more effectively and live more independent lives.

Companies like Petal Back, Buck & Buck, Silvert's and New Leaf Home Medical offer clothing and clothing products to make dressing and personal care easier.

When selecting assistive technology products to be used with computers, it's important to find products that are compatible with your computer's operating system.

Other Resources Concerning Housing for Disabled and Handicapped Seniors

Reviewed By

Scott Witt

Elder Home Care Expert

Scott founded Select Home Care Portland in 2009 and has been helping seniors live their best life at home or in their local senior community ever since. As an advocate for seniors, the primary philosophy has been to listen, educate and provide… Learn More About Scott Witt

Written By

Jeff Hoyt

Editor in Chief

Since graduating from Harvard with an honors degree in Statistics, Jeff has been creating content in print, online, and on television. Much of his work has been dedicated to informing seniors on how to live better lives. As Editor-in-Chief of the personal… Learn More About Jeff Hoyt

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