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Considering long-term care

Are you considering long-term care for yourself or someone you love? Long-term care involves a variety of services designed to meet a person’s health or personal care needs during a short or long period of time. These services help people live as independently and safely as possible when they can no longer perform everyday activities on their own.

What does long-term care include?

Long-term care is provided in different places by different caregivers, depending on a person’s needs. Sometimes long-term care is provided at home, either by unpaid family members and friends or by professional caregivers (such as those provided by Care & Comfort at Home). It can also be given in a facility (such as a nursing home) or within the community (such as in an adult day care center).

The most common type of long-term care is personal care — help with everyday activities, also called “activities of daily living.” These activities include bathing, dressing, grooming, using the toilet, eating, and moving around (for example, getting out of bed and into a chair).

Long-term care also includes community services such as meals, adult day care, and transportation services. These services may be provided free or for a fee.

Health drives the need for care

When considering long-term care, it’s often because of a serious, ongoing health condition or disability. The need for long-term care can arise suddenly, such as after a heart attack or stroke. Most often, however, it develops gradually, as people get older and frailer or as an illness or disability gets worse.

How long does care last?

Short-term care lasts several weeks or a few months while someone is recovering from a sudden illness or injury. For example, a person may get short-term rehabilitation therapy at a nursing facility after hip surgery, then go home.

Long-term care, on the other hand, can be ongoing, as with someone who is severely disabled from a stroke or who has Alzheimer’s disease. Many people can remain at home if they have help from family and friends or retain paid services, such as offered by Care & Comfort at Home. Some people will move permanently to a nursing home or other type of facility if their needs can no longer be met at home (typically because of medical and professional nursing services that are necessary).

About 70 percent of people over age 65 need some type of long-term care during their lifetime.

Who will need long-term care?

It is difficult to predict how much or what type of long-term care a person might need. Several things increase the risk of needing long-term care.

  • Age — The risk generally increases as people get older.
  • Gender — Women are at higher risk than men, primarily because they often live longer.
  • Marital status — Single people are more likely than married people to need care from a paid provider.
  • Lifestyle — Poor diet and exercise habits can increase a person’s risk.
  • Health and family history — These factors also affect risk.

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Information courtesy of National Institutes of Health (NIH)


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