Long term care is a term used to describe the range of assistance a person might need to receive and can include medical care, custodial care or other services. This might be needed as a result of any long-term condition (i.e. stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, etc.), an illness or the decline in a person’s physical capabilities due to aging.
Although there is no way to predict who will need long term care, understanding what it is and being prepared may ease the burden and stress for you, your family and your caregivers. Long term care helps meet health and personal care needs and includes various services designed to help people live safely and as independently as possible when illness, injury or other condition doesn’t allow them to perform everyday tasks on their own. People need medical, personal care or supervision when they have a serious ongoing health condition or disability, which can develop gradually over time or arise suddenly such as with a heart attack or stroke. Depending on the person’s condition, long term care may last months or years.
It should be noted that long term care is not always medical care. Rather, it helps people with their activities of daily living (ADL’s) or provides for caregivers overseeing someone who cannot care for themselves. It may be provided by different caregivers including paid caregivers or unpaid family and friends and may include everyday living services such as assistance with dressing, bathing, transferring (such as from bed to chair), using the restroom, grooming, eating, housework, pet care, transportation, communicating with others and shopping for food, clothing and other necessities. Other health-related help may include caring for incontinence, using eye drops or taking medications.
Long term care can be provided in many forms including at home, day programs, senior housing, an assisted living facility, continuing care retirement community or nursing home. Many people will require some amount of personal care at their home as they age while others may need permanent assistance and medical help that can be provided at a facility. It truly depends on the person’s condition which type of care is needed. In fact, according to the National Institutes on Health, as much as 70% of people over age 65 will need some type of long term care during their lifetime. They also estimate that more than 40% of this same age group will need care in a nursing home for some amount of time.
There is no way to know if you will need long term care or how much or what type, but there are long term care risks to consider including age (risk increases with age), gender (women are at higher risk mostly because they live longer), marital status (whether spouse can help with personal care), lifestyle (poor diet and exercise) and health and family history.
By 2020, 12 million older Americans will require long term care and most will receive it at home, according to Medicare. Friends and family are the sole caregivers for 70% of the elderly. Talk with your network of friends and family. Form a plan now. Discuss it with your loved ones. It is important to plan ahead for long term care because you won’t know how much care you will need in the future.
National Institutes on Health