What is Long-Term Care and Who Needs it?

Long-term care refers to a range of services designed to meet the complex needs of an elderly or disabled person. The ultimate goal is to ensure the patient is properly cared for and that all of their personal care and health care needs are met.

That being said, who needs long-term care services, what kind of assistance do they provide, and what is included under this umbrella term?

What are the Most Common Types of Long-Term Care?

One of the main goals of long-term care is to help with what’s known as Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). These include the following types of care:

  • Mobility: Assisting care recipients as they move from one location to the next, ensuring they can move freely
  • Dressing: Helping the patients get dressed in the morning and undressed at night
  • Eating: Ensuring meals are prepared and served
  • Toilet Needs: Dealing with toilet needs
  • Personal Hygiene: Making sure the patient takes regular showers and/or baths and maintains respectable grooming habits

It can also include grocery shopping, maintaining social interactions, managing finances, taking medications, and home maintenance. 

These services can be provided by the following:

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes may be the only option for patients suffering from serious health conditions, such as cognitive impairment resulting from Dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease. Skilled staff members work around the clock to help individuals with their basic daily needs and are also trained to deal with sudden medical episodes.

Family members can see the patient during visiting hours, and many nursing home facilities also have outdoor areas, recreational facilities, and lots of opportunities for independence.

The problem is that nursing home care is expensive. The average nursing facility, designed to deal with patients suffering from chronic conditions and requiring specialized nursing care, costs upwards of $80,000 a year. Medicaid and Medicare, as well as long-term care insurance, can help, but during an extended stay the patient or their loved ones will be left to foot the bill.

Assisted living facilities are a cheaper option but can still be very expensive and don’t cover all of a patient’s needs.

Home Care Services

Home health care services provide medical care for specific purposes and may be prescribed by a physician for rehabilitation, occupational therapy, and other chronic conditions. These services are provided on a part-time basis and are generally much cheaper than a skilled nursing facility, with Medicare able to cover some of the costs.

Community Care Services

Community services, such as adult day care, cost much less than the aforementioned options, and may also be provided free of charge. They cover many of the patient’s basic personal care and health care needs but are generally not a good option for patients with serious mobility issues and cognitive impairment.

Personal Care and Homemaker Services

If the patient has retained much of their mobility and simply needs some occasional help or short-term assistance, they can hire skilled care experts and other private services.

Local meal delivery services can provide food, transportation services can help with travel to and from appointments, and homemaker services can deal with home maintenance and cooking. Similarly, groceries, medications, and other essentials can be ordered online and shipped directly to the patient’s door. 

This option is more expensive than home care services but may be significantly cheaper than staying in a long-term care facility. The patient will also retain much of their independence and can continue living in their own home. 

Who Needs These Services?

Generally, long-term care services are provided to individuals who are suffering from chronic and lifelong conditions, whether they have been confined to a wheelchair or have recently been diagnosed with dementia. They are also provided to individuals who have recently been involved in a serious accident or suffered a major health incident, and need extensive care over the course of many weeks or months as a result.

What is the Cost of Long-Term Care?

Government programs and health insurance plans may cover you for some of the cost of care, but likely won’t provide this cover in the long term. For example, many patients may find that they are covered for a short stay in a nursing home facility, but their insurance policy won’t extend very far and they will need to get creative to cover the costs.

Here are a few ways to reduce the bills and ensure you and your loved ones are not bled dry by nursing facilities and home health aides:

  • Look at Care Options: An extended stay in a luxury nursing facility may seem like the best option at first, especially if it is ideally located and provides many of the services that the patient is looking for. Care expenses can quickly spiral out of control, though, and cause great stress for family members
    • To prevent such issues, make sure you consider all care options beforehand, looking at what is required, what is absolutely necessary, and what can be sacrificed. Would your money be better spent on home modifications or a senior living facility? Are there any cheaper custodial care options?
  • Use the Patient’s Funds: Those over the age of 65 are one of the richest demographics in the United States. The average senior has accumulated close to $100,000 in their 401(k) and may have other savings and assets tucked away. In fact, many adults start saving for their retirement when they are in their thirties and many try to accumulate savings in the 7-figures
    • If your loved one has this kind of money lying around, they can pay for their own care. It might come at the expense of your inheritance, but what’s more important is their continued well-being and health
  • Look into Mortgage Options: Reverse mortgages, home equity loans, and other second mortgage options can cover the funds needed for a long-term care plan. In fact, reverse mortgages are often used for this exact reason. These types of mortgages are reserved for homeowners over the age of 62 and allow them to swap their home equity for a sizeable sum
    • It’s worth noting, however, that reverse mortgages require the homeowner to continue living in their home and to take good care of it, so this won’t work for an extended stay in a nursing facility