Long-term care consists of both medical and non-medical services which help meet the needs of those who are unable to take care of themselves. This type of care, as its name implies, is long term and/or ongoing, and is primarily utilized by those who are chronically ill and/or disabled.
Long term care services can take place at home, which allows individuals to maintain a greater sense of independence, or services can be provided at dedicated facilities, such as nursing homes. The decision of whether to receive services at home or in a facility depends on a number of factors, including the level of care needed.
Who Needs Long Term Care?
This form of ongoing care is frequently needed by those whose chronic illnesses and/or disabilities make taking care of themselves challenging. The necessity of care may arise suddenly, due to an unforeseen illness or injury, or may present more gradually as is often the case with aging adults.Predictive Factors:
- Age. The potential necessity of long term care increases with age. In other words, the older an individual is, the more likely they are to need some form of ongoing services.
- Sex. Women tend to require this type of care more frequently than men; however, this may be attributed to women generally having longer lifespans than men.
- Marital Status. Individuals who are single or are more likely to need long term care than those who are married.
- Lifestyle. Poor diet and lack of physical activity contribute to a significant number of chronic illnesses. Those more at risk of developing a chronic illness due to lifestyle factors are additionally more at risk of requiring ongoing care.
- Health History. Both individual health history and family health history impact risk.
What Types of Services Are Available?
The most common type of long-term care service provided is Personal Care Assistance or Activities of Daily Living. This type of service involves helping a person perform everyday, essential tasks such as:
- getting into and/or out of a bed or chair
- bathing or showering
- getting dressed and undressed
- going to the bathroom
- personal hygiene such as teeth brushing
Other types of services include Lifestyle Support and Activity Assistance. The former includes buying groceries, meal preparation, household cleaning, running errands, transportation, and more; the latter includes socialization with friends, family, and/or community members, physical exercise, mental exercise, pet care, assistance with hobbies, and more.
Medical long term care services are also known as Home Health Care. This type of care naturally varies from person to person based on individual medical needs; nonetheless, some examples of Home Health Care services include:
- nursing services
- administering medication(s)
- physical therapy
- speech therapy
- wound care
- intravenous or nutrition therapy
- medical social services such as counseling
and more. Moreover, Home Health Care services are often provided by nurses but may also be provided by physicians, social workers, or other professionals depending on need and circumstance.
How To Plan Long Term
Simply put, the best time to begin planning for long term care is long before you or a loved one need it. Many individuals—of various ages, not just older adults—require this type of care, and as previously mentioned the need for services may arise suddenly due to an unexpected illness or injury.
The best way to plan for the possibility of long term care services is by preparing a healthcare advanced directive. An advanced directive is a legal document designed to go into effect should you become incapacitated and/or unable to articulate your desired needs. By having this document in place, you are able to ensure no unwanted decisions are made on your behalf should extenuating circumstances arise.