One of the most natural phases of life is growing old. Even though staying healthy is the top priority for all of us, it is estimated that 70 percent of Americans over the age of 65 will require some form of long-term care (LTC) during their lifetime. Similarly, it is projected that 40 percent of people aged 18 and over will require LTC at some point in their lives. But what is LTC? Who requires it? Let’s find out.
What Is Long-Term Care(LTC)?
LTC can be defined as a wide range of services that help people with activities of daily living (ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, and using the toilet. It can also include services to help people with cognitive impairment or mental health issues.
LTC can be provided in a variety of settings, such as:
- At home, by a family member, friend, or paid caregiver, such as a primary care doctor and nurses
- In an assisted living facility
- In a nursing home
- In a hospice facility
Generally, anyone who needs assistance with two or more ADLs for an extended period of time may need LTC. This could be a young person with a disability, an older adult who can no longer live independently, or a person recovering from an illness or injury.
For instance, someone who is recovering from a stroke may need help with their most basic needs. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia may need assistance with eating and grooming.
Who Requires Long-Term Care?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. LTC needs can arise due to a chronic illness, disability, or cognitive impairment. In fact, anyone can require LTC services at any point in their life.
However, there are certain risk factors that can make it more likely that someone will need LTC. These include:
- Advanced age
People 65 and older are more likely to need LTC than those who are younger.
- Female gender
Women are more likely to need LTC than men, due to their longer life expectancy.
- Cognitive impairment
Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can lead to a need for LTC.
People who smoke, are obese, or have sedentary lifestyles are at increased risk for chronic health conditions that may require LTC.
- Certain medical conditions
Conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer can lead to a need for LTC.
- Family history
People with a family history of chronic health conditions or early death are at increased risk for needing LTC.
- Marital status
Unmarried people are more likely to need LTC than those who are married.
While there is no guaranteed way to avoid the need for LTC, living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining strong social connections can help reduce your risk. A primary care doctor can also help you stay on top of your health and address any concerns early on.
How to Determine if You Need Long-Term Care?
There is no single test or screening tool to determine if someone needs long-term care. Instead, it is generally a process of elimination. A doctor or other health care professional will ask about your medical history, current symptoms, and level of functioning. The doctor may also do a physical examination.
Based on this information, they will determine if your symptoms are due to a treatable medical condition or if they are the result of normal aging. If they are due to normal aging, they will then assess if you are able to care for yourself independently or if you need assistance.
If you do need assistance, the doctor or health care professional will determine what type of care you need and make recommendations for services.
If you are an elderly citizen, it is advised that you consult a geriatric doctor, who specializes in the care of older adults. They can help you assess your LTC needs and make recommendations for services. You can search for a doctor online to find nearby providers, read reviews, and book an appointment.
What Are the Different Types of Long-Term Care?
There are three main types of long-term care: custodial, intermediate, and skilled.
Custodial care is the most basic level of LTC, and can be provided in the home or in a long-term care facility. It includes help with basic activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, and using the toilet.
Intermediate care is a step up from custodial care, and it, too, can be provided in the home or in a long-term care facility. It includes help with activities of daily living, as well as some medical care and supervision.
Skilled care is the highest level of LTC, and it can only be provided in a long-term care facility. It includes help with activities of daily living, as well as nursing care and other medical services.
How Long Does LTC Last?
The length of time someone requires LTC depends on many factors, such as age, health, and the type of care needed.
For example, someone who needs help with bathing and dressing may only need LTC for a few hours a week. Someone with more complex needs, such as round-the-clock care for cognitive impairment, may need LTC for many years.
A primary care doctor or other specialized medical professionals will continuously reassess your care needs and make recommendations for changes in care as your condition progresses. They will also determine whether you need LTC on a long-term or temporary basis and for how long.
How Much Does LTC Cost?
The cost of LTC varies depending on the type of care you need and where you receive it.
In-home care is typically less expensive than care received in a facility, but it can still be costly. The median cost of home health services was $24 per hour in 2020. Similarly, the cost of care in an assisted living facility varies widely, but the median cost was $4,500 per month in 2021.
How is LTC Paid For?
There are several ways to pay for LTC, including:
- Private insurance
- Veterans benefits
- Long-term care insurance
Some people may have more than one option for paying for LTC. For example, someone with private insurance and Medicare may be able to use both to pay for LTC services. However, it is important to note that Medicare and Medicaid cover only specific types of LTC services.
For example, Medicare doesn’t cover the expenses incurred for custodial care, which involves getting assistance for daily activities such as eating and using the washroom. However, this is a major part of elderly care provided at assistive living facilities.
Private insurance, long-term care insurance, and veterans benefits typically cover a wider range of LTC services. But these policies can be expensive, and they may have limits on the type and amount of coverage they provide.
We hope this blog helped you understand what long-term care is and who requires it. It is disheartening to think that you or a loved one will require LTC, but it is always best to be prepared. We wish you all the best in your journey to finding the perfect care for you or a loved one.