Long-term care is ongoing assistance with some of the most basic activities of daily living such as eating, bathing, dressing, or getting in and out of bed or a chair. The need for long-term care most often stems from disability, chronic illness, or cognitive impairment.
How to Pay for Long-Term Care
Aside from paying out of pocket (private pay) unless you’re fortunate enough to have a loved one providing care at no charge, another source of payment is long-term care insurance or programs that help seniors, the elderly home bound and caregivers free of charge, or sliding scale, based on income.
The most common type of long-term care is personal care services — in-home care to help with everyday activities, also called Activities of Daily Living or ADL’s. These activities include bathing, dressing, grooming, using the toilet, eating, and moving around — for example, getting out of bed and into a chair.
Health Conditions Drives the Need for Long Term Care
People often need long-term care when they have a serious, ongoing health condition or disability. The need for long-term care can arise suddenly, such as after a heart attack or stroke. Most often, however, it develops gradually, as people get older and frailer or as an illness or disability gets worse.
How Long Does Care Last?
Long-term care can last a short time or a long time. Short-term care lasts several weeks or a few months while someone is recovering from a sudden illness or injury. For example, a person may get short-term rehabilitation therapy at a nursing facility after hip surgery, then go home.
Long-term care can be ongoing, as with someone who is severely disabled from a stroke or who has Alzheimer’s disease. Many people can remain at home if they have help from family and friends or paid services. But some people move permanently to a nursing home or other type of facility if their needs can no longer be met at home.
About 70 percent of people over age 65 need some type of long-term care during their lifetime. More than 40 percent need care in a nursing home for some period of time.
Who Will Need Long Term Care?
It is difficult to predict how much or what type of long-term care a person might need. Several things increase the risk of needing long-term care.
- Age — The risk generally increases as people get older.
- Gender — Women are at higher risk than men, primarily because they often live longer.
- Marital status — Single people are more likely than married people to need care from a paid provider.
- Lifestyle — Poor diet and exercise habits can increase a person’s risk.
- Health and family history — These factors also affect risk.