What Is Long-Term Care (LTC)?

Long-term care, or "LTC," refers to insurance, programs, and services geared toward helping older adults with the basic activities of daily living.

Long-term care, or "LTC," refers to insurance, programs, and services geared toward helping older adults with the basic activities of daily living. Certain activities, such as getting out of bed or walking down a flight of stairs, can become challenging as we age.

When this happens, people often find that actions they once took for granted have become physically and emotionally draining.

Long-Term Care Basics

Long-term care services provide older adults with a way to stay healthy, active, and meet their basic living requirements. The need for long-term care may be temporary, such as during recovery from illness or injury. It can also be ongoing due to a persistent physical condition or dementia.

Proper long-term care planning, and knowing what services are available, may include help with the following activities:

  • Walking
  • Eating
  • Grooming
  • Personal care
  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Toileting
  • Assistance with medical therapy
  • Drug administration
  • Meal preparation
  • Money management
  • Shopping
  • Transportation
  • Bill paying
  • Running errands
  • Minor repairs
  • Pain management
  • Housework

Having a plan when things start to get difficult can take pressure off loved ones and caregivers. It can also allow older adults to live in their own homes longer or have greater independence for as long as possible.

Types of Long-term Care Options

There are many types of long-term care options, depending on the needs and resources of the recipient. Older adults who require help with their physical or emotional needs may obtain services at any of the following locations:

  • In a nursing home, which can include skilled nursing, intermediate care, and custodial care
  • In the home of the person receiving care
  • In the home of a family member or friend
  • In an assisted-living residence
  • At an adult day services

Who Needs LTC?

There are no set criteria for those who may require long-term care. It is most often needed by adults over 65 but is also available to younger adults.

People under age 65 may have a chronic illness, disability, or other health condition. Young adults may require assistance with basic daily living tasks.

Factors that may increase or decrease your chances of requiring LTC include:

  • Age
  • Gender, due to women generally living longer than men and needing LTC assistance more often
  • Marital status, as single people often require more help than a married person
  • Lifestyle
  • Eating habits
  • Exercising
  • Smoking, drinking, or drug use
  • Health history
  • Chronic health diseases

Long-Term Care Costs

You can expect nursing home care or any long-term care facility to be expensive. A Cost of Care Survey by Genworth found these 2024 estimates:

  • Private rooms in a nursing home cost $9,872 per month
  • Semiprivate rooms cost $8,641 per month

Who Pays for LTC?

Most people with long-term care needs receive unpaid help from family and friends. This includes multigenerational care from adult children or even grandchildren. Family members are sometimes forced to leave their work to help care for an aging parent or grandparent.

Medicare pays for long-term care in many settings, including a nursing home or home care.

Other means of paying for long-term care may include:

  • Personal savings
  • Medicaid
  • Veteran's benefits
  • Reverse mortgages
  • The Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)

Caregiver Support

Family and friends often provide unpaid in-home care to help with the cost of home health care. While Medicare covers some caregiver costs, alternative funding sources include personal savings, Medicaid, and Veteran's benefits.

Medicaid's Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) offers additional support. Recognizing the cost of caregivers is important in planning for the cost of long-term care.

Long-Term Care Insurance Basics

Long-term care insurance can sometimes help pay for health care over a certain time. However, health insurance policies often have certain eligibility requirements and are generally limited to people between 50 and 84. The premiums can also make insurance a difficult option.

If their terms better fit your situation, there are also short-term care insurance options like Aetna, Medico, or MedAmerica.

If you have legal questions about elder care programs or have elder law concerns, talk to an elder law attorney to figure out the right next steps.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex care situations usually require a lawyer
  • A lawyer can reduce the chances of a family dispute
  • DIY is possible in some simple cases 
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