Full Circle America Promises Less Expense and More Dignity for Seniors

Full Circle America

Full Circle America plans to help keep Mom and Dad in their home

If you’re one of the millions of adults in the Sandwich Generation—raising young kids at the same time that you are taking care of your aging parents—you’ve probably spent some sleepless nights worrying about how you will pay for care as your parents grow older.

In-home care, nursing homes and assisted living communities are the traditional routes families take when seniors are no longer able to handle independent living. But with prices averaging between $3,000 and $10,000 per month, these options are often far too expensive for most budgets.

Add to that Grandma’s unhappiness at leaving the home she has lived in for decades, and the choices seem even bleaker.

Luckily, Dr. Allan “Chip” Teel of Full Circle America has an alternative.

Rather than treat aging as an illness that must be treated with nursing care, Full Circle America empowers seniors to continue living independently while relying on their communities to help manage tasks they can no longer do.

FCA returns us to an older view of community and aging, when families, neighbors and religious organizations came together to help care for the frailest community members.

Although FCA is the focus of our review today, you should also check out the nursing home alternatives provided through Medicare.

A senior who signs up for FCA will benefit from the two-pronged approach to care—using technology and volunteers to keep watch over the independent senior.

The services offered include home visits, errand and transportation services, personal member advocacy, mental health assessments, telephone checks, video spot checks and more. Basically, the goal of FCA is to allow elders to do everything they are still capable of doing, while giving them the necessary support through community action.

For example, let’s say Great-Aunt May has had to give up her car and driver’s license and it is no longer possible for your family to pick up the slack. If May is lucky enough to live in a community taking part in Full Circle America, she could continue to live at home and do the things that give her life meaning.

FCA would organize a surrogate family for May that would check on her as often as twice a day, and would set up web cameras in her home to do spot checks to make sure everything is copacetic.

But in addition to getting care, May could potentially also help fellow seniors by making telephone check-ins to others and by organizing group outings with a volunteer driver. Instead of feeling like an abandoned and isolated old woman in a nursing home, May could feel like an important and vibrant member of a community.

I first heard about Full Circle America in one of Dr. Teel's interviews (direct link to .mp3)

According to Dr. Teel, the cost to continue living at home with the help of volunteers and technology ranges from $500-$1,000 per month, thereby making this one of the most cost efficient and empowering options.

Unfortunately, Full Circle America is still a grassroots organization. Dr. Teel is based in Maine and has seen his program work wonders in the elder community there. It is his goal to branch this program out to 10,000 communities across the country over the next decade.

If you are interested in bringing Full Circle America to your community, contact Dr. Teel. Volunteering to help out the elders in your community is an investment in the future that will give seniors the dignity of living out their lives at home, at a price that all of us can afford.

Image by Tony the Misfit

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About Emily Guy Birken

Emily Guy Birken is a former English teacher and respected personal finance blogger. She lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her engineer husband and two high-energy little boys. She has written four books: The Five Years Before You Retire, Choose Your Retirement, Making Social Security Work For You, and End Financial Stress Now. Emily's thoughts on parenting and life in general are found at The SAHMnambulist.


  1. We all could benefit from this “common sense” approach

  2. David Winchell says:

    I love the idea. This is the kind of thinking that we need more of in this country.