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Legal-Ease: An Attorney’s Perspective: Aging in Place

By January 22, 2021March 12th, 2021No Comments

Judd Matsunaga, Esq.

I get it — “Home is where the heart is.” Even in cases where physical or cognitive decline make it difficult to live independently, seniors vastly prefer aging in place to moving into a long-term care facility. At home, you can live your life as you see fit. You also enjoy a sense of dignity unavailable to many other seniors you know.

As a senior, this year’s New Year’s resolution might be to remain at home for another year. Seniors who age in place enjoy a sense of independence and comfort that only home can provide. Of course, you need to “age in place” safely. That means looking into two things: (1) senior proofing a home and (2) a medical alert system.

Senior proofing a home requires making changes to ensure the home is safer and fall proof. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that 3 million elderly people are treated in emergency rooms for fall injuries each year. When a senior falls, he or she is likely to suffer traumatic brain injuries, cuts, fractures and broken bones.

Whether you are the senior aging in place or the family member caring for your elderly parent(s), it’s best to make any needed modifications throughout the house to senior proof the home. Senior proofing a home is different for every senior because every person has a different set of disabilities, e.g., visual disabilities, cognitive disabilities, mobility and much more.

Senior proofing a home might require changes such as home modifications like a walk-in tub. Other tips:

  • Get rid of throw rugs.
  • Install grab bars and rails.
  • Declutter living spaces.
  • Install better lighting.
  • Rearrange furniture.

A “Fall Prevention Checklist” can be found online at

“But Judd, that’s a lot of money. I can’t afford it.” If you’re a senior and own your home, there’s a good chance that you own your home “free and clear” (or you owe a small equity line of credit). You’re sitting on your nest egg. If your home needs to be “senior proofed” so that you can age in place safely, you may conder tapping into the equity in your home and pull enough money out to fix it up.

Chances are, you have seen the TV commercial featuring spokesperson and actor Tom Selleck. In the American Advisors Group commercial, Selleck says, “I wouldn’t be here if I thought reverse mortgages took advantage of any American citizen. A reverse mortgage loan isn’t some trick to take your home. It’s a loan, like any other. The big difference is how you pay it back.”

“But my children won’t let me get a reverse mortgage.” Well, then ask your children to pay for the home modifications to allow you to remain at home. If you pull out $50,000 to add a walk-in tub, a wheelchair ramp and other things, chances are your home will appreciate in value.

Secondly, any senior who wants to live at home independently should protect him/herself with a medical alert system. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 out of every 4 older adults falls every year. Of those falls, 20 percent are serious, resulting in a broken bone, head trauma or similar injury.

Furthermore, falling once doubles one’s chance of experiencing another fall in the future. And since there’s no way to completely prevent falls, it’s crucial to provide immediate help when a fall does happen.

This is where home medical alert systems can be invaluable.

Medical alert systems typically consist of two components – a base station and a wearable device. When the user presses the help button on the wearable device, a call is initiated to a monitoring center. The user is connected with an operator who can help to assess the situation and dispatch emergency services right away. Some systems will come with extra features like GPS monitoring and automatic fall detection.

According to the ADT website, it’s as simple as: (1) Press Button: Press the personal help button to send an emergency alert to ADT. Fall Detection pendants can automatically send an alert if a fall occurs; (2) We Respond:

ADT senior-sensitivity-trained monitoring professionals will communicate over two-way voice; and (3) You Get Help: At the push of a button, ADT’s highly-trained professionals alert caregivers, loved ones and/or emergency responders.

I asked Daniel Okazaki with ADT for help.

“My parents and many of my friends who are older, are starting to have occasional moments but still want to have their independence and live in their homes. Additionally, most loved ones do not have the time to consistently be there to watch over or just be there should an emergency or situation happen. The medical alerts (especially the mobile one) allow the peace of mind that there is someone monitoring if they fall.

“With a push of the button, ADT can be there to calm, help, dispatch and alert. It is not only good for the peace of mind and freedom it can provide the individuals; it also can be lifesaving or minimize serious conditions that can occur from a fall. That, of course, saves everyone money, but also helps prevent potentially long hospital stays or having to leave their home.”

I asked Daniel if I could put his name and number in the Pacific Citizen, and he said he would be happy to answer any questions that any P.C. reader might have about medical alert systems. Daniel is also the president of the San Fernando Valley JACC and can be reached at (818) 430-8305.

Judd Matsunaga is the founding attorney of Elder Law Services of California, a law firm that specializes in Medi-Cal Planning, Estate Planning and Probate. He can be contacted at (310) 348-2995 or The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Pacific Citizen or constitute legal or tax advice and should not be treated as such.