An aging-at-home option

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Medicaid should help seniors avoid nursing homes

Aging Americans should demand a healthier, less costly option than institutional living for their retirement years. They should strive to age in place, and the government should help.

Baby boomers, who are fast-approaching retirement, should help lead the charge to revolutionize the way Americans spend the latter stages of life.

First, Medicaid must be forced to alter its rules. From 1975 to 2004, 90 percent of the $600 billion in Medicaid funding was spent to provide long-term care in institutions, according to a recent story in the Wall Street Journal.

Staying at home provides a cheaper alternative, and one that most older Americans have indicated that they would prefer.

Home health aides, visiting nurses and other support personnel cost only a fraction of full-time care in a licensed facility.

Yet, federal rules make it hard for seniors to use Medicaid to pay for at-home care. States seeking to use federal dollars to help at-home seniors must apply for waivers.

Not every senior can choose to stay home. Those who have debilitating physical and mental illnesses should have 24- hour care in a licensed facility.

But for those who only need a helping hand, living in the home that they cherish, surrounded by keepsakes and treasured furnishings, is a healthier alternative.

Factor in baby boomers’ crushing numbers — 77 million are nearing retirement age — and the aging-at-home option becomes a necessity.

Seniors should demand that Medicaid loosen its iron grip and expand the types of services the government agency can fund.

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