Long Term Care Blog Series: What is Long Term Care?

March 1st 2016, by Robert B. Miller

How is long-term care different from the traditional medical care that we receive in a doctor’s office or in a hospital setting?  Long-term care could be defined as care provided during the latter stages of life that helps meet both medical and non-medical needs of people who are unable to care for themselves.  Although long-term care could be needed by a person of any age, in this four-part blog series we will focus on long-term care for senior citizens and how planning for that care affects their loved ones.

In many cases long-term care involves providing custodial and non-skilled care for a person unable to perform two or more activities of daily living such as eating, dressing, bathing, transferring, toileting and continence. Long-term care can also involve providing skilled medical care by professionals who address the chronic conditions that some seniors experience.  Long-term care can be provided at home, in the community, in assisted living facilities and in nursing homes.

A person can receive long-term care formally or informally.  It is provided formally in facilities that accommodate people who need on-site delivery of around-the-clock supervised care. It can also be provided formally in a person’s home. Home health care can incorporate such services as skilled nursing, physical therapy, and drug therapy.  It might also include making physical changes to the home by installing hydraulic lifts or by renovating bathrooms and kitchens.  Home health care, however, is many times provided informally by unpaid family members and friends.

The average length of stay in a nursing facility is approximately three years although people with cognitive impairment in good physical condition can stay much longer.  Women on average outlive men, so it comes as no surprise that two-thirds of nursing home residents are female.  According to Christine Benz, author of 50 Must-Know Statistics about Long-term Care, 67% of Americans age 65 or older will need some form of long-term care during their lifetimes.

In the next few blogs we will delve more deeply into the long-term care conversation and address the emotional issues and family dynamics related to the long-term care decision-making process.  We will also look at the impact various housing options have on the delivery of long-term care services.  Our final blog will discuss various ways to fund long-term care.  We invite your thoughts and questions throughout this series as we tackle a challenging issue in your retirement planning.