Long-Term Health Care for Older Adults

As people age, they often find it challenging to complete daily tasks such as shopping, traveling to doctor's appointments, and managing medications.

Due to debilitating diseases or severe injuries, older adults may need help treating their ailments and dealing with the complications of daily life.

Many older individuals will require long-term healthcare (LTC) to aid in the tasks that have become challenging due to a medical or health condition. Nursing homes, long-term care services fulfilled by home health care, or a care facility can all qualify as "long-term care."

When To Seek Long-Term Healthcare

According to the U.S. Administration on Aging, 70% of Americans aged 65 or older will need long-term care for at least three years.

Many senior citizens will require long-term healthcare services after:

  • Being diagnosed with a severe long-term illness such as Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease
  • Suffering a serious injury such as a broken hip or injuries from an auto accident
  • Normal advanced aging, such as arthritis, makes daily routines so difficult that senior citizens may require regular help

Who Needs Long-Term HealthCare?

Although older adults usually require long-term healthcare, younger individuals may also require similar services. Children and adults with severe mental or physical disabilities may need daily help with regular activities.

Additionally, spouses of wounded veterans may seek long-term care to provide additional support. Younger individuals suffering long-term injuries and illnesses may also require long-term healthcare to help with daily routines.

Obtaining Long-Term Healthcare

Most typical health insurance plans do not necessarily provide for long-term healthcare requirements. As a result, many individuals finding that they need long-term care may struggle to determine the level of care required and find the funds to pay for long-term care costs.

Some people prepare for the likely event of needing long-term healthcare by purchasing a long-term care insurance policy. Programs like Medicare usually only pay for long-term healthcare costs after the patient has paid as much as possible. This can include selling property assets to pay for services such as an extended stay in an assisted living facility.

Programs like Medicaid only offset the cost of long-term care if the older adult is below the federal poverty line and eligible for the program.

Long-Term Care Insurance vs. Family Caregivers

Long-term care insurance covers everyday expenses without requiring individuals to dip into savings or sell off assets.

Rather than hiring in-home care or paying for a stay in a residential facility, some families save money by becoming caretakers of their older adult loved ones.

Depending on an individual's long-term care needs, a family member may be able to manage medications, assist with chores, and provide additional support.

Types of Long-Term Healthcare

Generally, there are four types of long-term healthcare:

  1. In-home care options or "homemaker services" (such as a home health aide)
  2. Residential facilities
  3. Adult daycare center
  4. Rehabilitation facilities

These types of long-term care aim to preserve an older adult's personal care, activities of daily living (ADL), and as much independence as possible. Generally, older adults prefer to stay in their own homes or have partial days at a center. Still, in some cases, full-time residential or rehabilitation facilities are the safest option.

Long-Term Healthcare: In-home services

In-home services are usually provided for individuals whose homes need few or no modifications to accommodate the individual's physical or mental condition.

A family member may be able to provide in-home services, or individuals may hire a nurse or licensed in-home care provider. Some individuals require in-home services around the clock, while others only require in-home support during the day to help with daily chores.

Long-Term Healthcare: Residential Facilities

Residential facilities offer several different arrangements catering to the specific needs of the individual. Facilities such as assisted living homes help individuals with daily activities in a home-like environment. In contrast, skilled nursing facilities provide specialized support for individual health conditions.

Long-Term Healthcare: Adult Daycare

Adult daycare facilities provide social and educational activities to senior citizens during the day. Many older individuals add adult daycare to their long-term care plans to improve their quality of life and to take some pressure off in-home caregivers.

Long-Term Healthcare: Rehabilitation Facilities

Rehabilitation facilities provide long-term care to help a senior regain some of the function or ability lost through a debilitating illness or injury. Some residential facilities may refer residents to rehabilitation facilities after suffering an injury or illness in an assisted living situation.

Talk to an older adult law attorney if you need help figuring out where to start or have questions about legal issues.

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