“For the last several months Mom has been unable to function independently; in fact, she has fallen several times and seems to be very forgetful. I've heard the term "long term care" discussed a lot recently by my friends who have elderly parents. Please provide me with some additional information about long term care. And thank you for your help with my family's elder care matters.”

Answer:  Long-term care are those services which help meet both the medical and non-medical need of people with a chronic illness or disability who cannot care for themselves for long periods of time.

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.

 When might you need long-term care?

You may need long-term care at any time in your life. In fact, about 43% of all claims for long-term care insurance benefits are from people under age 65.

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 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:

  • Bathing.
  • Dressing.
  • Using the toilet.
  • Transferring to or from the bed or a chair.
  • Caring for incontinence.
  • Eating.

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 years, 9 months) than men (on average 2 years, 3 months).
  • About one-third of today’s 65-year-olds may never need long-term care services; however, 20 percent of them will need care for more than five years.

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.

Kathy Dorsey, CLTC
Long Term Care Insurance Solutions
Fort Worth, Texas  76102
Member of the national ElderCare Matters Alliance, Texas chapter

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