Long-term care may not be what you think. It isn’t just for the elderly, and it isn’t just about nursing homes. It’s about having the assistance you need during an extended illness or injury at any time of life.
To help protect your future, it’s important to know the basics of long-term care, and really understand your options. With the right planning and knowledge, you can maximize your independence and maintain your options so you can choose the kind of care and assistance that’s right for you.
What is long-term care?
Long-term care refers to a variety of services and supports that help you with health or personal care needs over an extended period of time. You may need long-term care if you:
* Develop a prolonged or chronic illness.
* Sustain a serious injury or disability.
* Develop a cognitive impairment that causes memory loss or disorientation, such as Alzheimer’s.
* Need assistance due to the normal frailties of aging.
There is a difference between traditional health-care services and long-term care services. Health-care services focus on the prevention and treatment of medical conditions. Long-term care services are designed to help you maintain your current lifestyle at a time when you may not be able to be fully independent.
There are several types of long-term care. The type of care you receive can vary depending on your particular need.
* “Skilled care” refers to care given by medical personnel, such as a registered nurse or professional therapist. It requires a physician-prescribed plan of care.
* “Personal care” focuses on helping with your activities of daily living. It is less involved and may be provided by trained professionals or even a family member.
Long-term care may also include care management services to evaluate your overall needs.
It isn’t just for the elderly.
Most of us think of long-term care as being only for the elderly and those in nursing homes, but that’s only part of the story. Forty percent of people currently receiving long-term care services are adults under the age of 65. And, most people receive long-term care services either in their own home, or in the home of a family member—not in a nursing home.
Anyone could need help with everyday routines.
The fact is, anyone at any age may need long-term care at some point in their lives. If you sustain an extensive injury or go through a prolonged illness, you may need help with your normal daily activities, such as bathing, getting dressed, or just getting around the house. If you become cognitively impaired, you may need help with meal preparation and eating, or reminders to take medications, or other kinds of support.
Understanding your need for long-term care.
Although these everyday activities may seem mundane, they are essential to maintaining your independence. Your ability, or inability, to perform these regular activities of daily living give long-term care professionals and those in the insurance industry a very practical measure to use when deciding if you need long-term care. Activities of daily living, often referred to as ADLs, include such regular activities as:
* Using the toilet.
* Transferring to or from the bed or a chair.
* Caring for incontinence.
It’s difficult to predict how long you may need care.
You can’t predict the future, but these facts might give you an idea of how long you may need long-term care.
* On average, someone age 65 today will need some long-term care services for three years.
* Typically, women need care longer (on average 3.7 years) than men (on average 2.2 years).
* About one-third of today’s 65-year-olds may never need long-term care services.
Your long-term care needs may change over time.
The amount and type of long-term care services you need will often change gradually over time. For example, early on you may need only occasional help for a few activities of daily living, and may choose to receive that assistance in your own home. Over time, however, you may begin to require more regular assistance and choose to live in an assisted living center.