About Your Options
Looking for housing options for yourself, an aging parent, relative, or friend? It can be complicated, confusing and exhausting. Wherever you are in the process, do not hesitate to call the Pierce County Aging & Disability Resource Center for localized help at (253) 798-4600 or (800) 562-0332.
First consider what kind of assistance or living arrangement you need, what your health insurance might cover and what you can afford. Then check for financial assistance resources and guides for making the right choice.
Connecting to people at Housing & Urban Development (HUD) can be a good help.
Be sure to check out Housing Options for Seniors - A Guide for Making Housing Decisions produced by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging. it is a very good, comprehensive overview of all your options.
Many people choose to remain in their own homes for their entire lives. Others move to homes that are low maintenance or are located in senior communities. This is an excellent option for people who can afford home maintenance and in-home care as necessary.
Some low-income individuals qualify for in home care through state Medicaid / COPES, or property tax exemptions, low-income discounts on utilities and low-income home repair programs.
Condominiums & Mobile Home Parks
This option combines the joys and frustrations of renting and owning a home. The owner is responsible for upkeep and maintenance on their individual unit and pays rental or maintenance fees on the entire complex.
Condominium owners may be responsible for expensive one-time facility improvements. Low-income seniors should beware that mobile home park rents are not regulated and can rise rapidly. In Pierce County, numerous mobile home parks have closed in recent years - some quite suddenly. This has caused enormous upset among park residents.
Mobile homes can be more expensive to maintain than a house, and older mobile homes are hard to sell or dispose of. Some low-income individuals qualify for in-home care through state Medicaid / COPES (see information below), or property tax exemptions, low-income discounts on utilities and low-income home repair programs.
Rental Apartments & Houses
Renting an apartment or a house allows individuals a little flexibility in deciding where to live or when to move. The landlord handles most exterior maintenance (except for yard work in rental houses). Prices and amenities of rental property vary widely.
Some low-income individuals qualify for in-home care through state Medicaid / COPES (see information below). Some landlords participate in Section 8 (see below) or the IRS Affordable Housing program that allows tax breaks for landlords renting at a discounted rate to low income (less than $1,800/mo for one person) individuals.
This is a rental subsidy program through HUD that allows low-income individuals to rent apartments or houses for one-third of their income. It is available to low income individuals of all ages, but because of its popularity there is a two to five year waiting list that is usually closed.
Low-Income Senior Apartments
Some apartment facilities specifically cater to seniors with low incomes. As expected, there is a very low vacancy rate in these facilities so waiting lists are not uncommon.
Most accept Section 8 applicants. Low-income senior apartments often provide ancillary services such as special security, handicap accessibility, laundry facilities and resources for personal care needs. Small pets may or may not be allowed.
Lease terms are typically six months or longer. Resident managers live on site and work with apartment residents to arrange for needed social services or independent care providers.
Retirement Homes & Retirement Communities
Designed for seniors who are physically and socially independent, choose to live in a senior community and to eat at least one meal a day in a group setting. Some facilities provide housekeeping, organized social and recreational programs, transportation, access to shopping facilities and on-site nurses. Rental costs vary widely.
What is Home Sharing?
Home sharing brings together people seeking low-cost housing and homeowners needing someone to share their home.
What is the Financial Arrangement for Home Sharing?
Home seekers may earn their rent by doing yard work, housework, providing transportation or running errands. However, each home provider and home seeker create their own arrangement, based on their unique situation.
How Safe is Home Sharing?
It is important for home owners to carefully screen applicants. Do a criminal background check and verification of employment. Make sure terms of the sharing are fully and completely written out and understood.
Home Sharing applicants equally share a responsibility to understand and live up to the terms of the sharing agreement.
Are There any Shared Housing Organizations in Pierce County?
Contact Shared Housing Services in Tacoma at (253) 272-1532.
Assisted Living Assisted living facilities (sometimes called "boarding homes") provide individual or shared apartments for residents. They are often connected with retirement homes. Nurses, nurse aides and other staff in the building provide three meals per day, housekeeping and laundry, medication monitoring and assistance with bathing and dressing.
These facilities usually provide social and recreational programs, on-site beauty salon / barber, transportation and access to shopping and medical appointments. Some facilities specialize in dementia care.
Rents are usually quite high, but individuals with very low incomes can sometimes access the facilities through Medicaid / COPES (see information below).
Adult Family Homes
Adult Family Homes are regular neighborhood homes where staff assumes responsibility for the safety and well-being of the adult. A room, meals, laundry, supervision and varying levels of assistance with care are provided. Some provide occasional nursing care.
Some offer specialized care for people with mental health issues, developmental disabilities or dementia. The home can have two to six residents and is licensed by the state. If this is an option for you, find out what kinds of services and supports are available at each home you are interested in.
Individuals with very low incomes can sometimes access these facilities through Medicaid / COPES (see more information on this below).
Skilled Nursing Homes Nursing facilities are institutions which primarily provide skilled nursing care and related services for residents who require medical or nursing care or rehabilitation services for the rehabilitation of injured, disabled or sick persons.
A nursing facility that participates in Medicaid must provide, or arrange for, the full range of services for residents who need them, from those services above the level of room and board which can be made available only through institutional facilities, up to and including skilled nursing care.
Respite is a break for caregivers and families. It is a service in which temporary care is provided. Respite can occur in out-of-home and in-home settings for any length of time, depending on the needs of the family and available resources.
As a vital part of the continuum of services for families, respite can help prevent out-of-home placement, preserves the family unit, and supports family stability.
COPES (Community Options Program Entry System) is a program that pays for personal care and other services for people in their own homes. COPES also pays for care in adult family homes, adult residential care facilities and assisted living facilities.
It is designed to help people who, without COPES, would need to be in a nursing home. It is one of the Medicaid programs, administered by the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). The financial eligibility rules for COPES are very similar to the rules for the Medicaid program for nursing home care.