June 21

Understanding Long Term Care


Understanding Long Term Care (LTC) – or Long Term Services and Support (LTSS) – is an important part of planning for your retirement and future healthcare needs. Many of our clients, both older adults and their family members, have heard of LTC, but are confused about what it actually means and how it fits into a healthy retirement plan.

What is Long Term Care (LTC)?

Long Term Care (LTC) is care for someone who needs help with physical and/or emotional needs for an extended time period. For example, if your dad has a stroke, he may need care for months or even years to recover his mobility, speech and other physical and cognitive tasks. He may need long term care to help him with feeding and medication if he is using a feeding tube due to swallowing issues.

The need for long term care can happen suddenly (after a heart attack, stroke or fall) or develop gradually, as one ages or as a chronic health condition becomes increasingly difficult to manage. For example, your mom’s dementia is making it difficult to shop for food and prepare meals safely on her own. She may need long term care for help with planning, shopping and cooking.

Who needs LTC?

Long Term Care (LTC) is often needed for older adults struggling with physical or mental health issues affecting their ability to perform activities of daily living (ADL) such as dressing, bathing, cooking or bill paying.

Some people are more at risk for needing LTC than others.

  • Women often need LTC because they often live longer than men and have higher rates of disability and chronic illness (both factors in needing LTC).
  • Single people are more likely to need in-home care and LTC than are married people, who may rely on a spouse for care and support.
  • People with poor diet and exercise habits are at greater risk for chronic health issues and, as a result, will need LTC.
  • People with family histories of chronic illness and/or disability are at higher risk for needing LTC.

What are the most common health issues requiring LTC?

Many health issues necessitate some form or type of long term care. These conditions might be physical in nature (hip replacement surgery) or mental (dementia). Many conditions have an element of both physical and mental need.

The Top 7 health conditions requiring LTC are:

  1. Stroke
  2. Cancer
  3. Injury from Falling or Activity
  4. Dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease
  5. Diabetes
  6. Obesity
  7. Nervous System Disorders such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

What types of LTC are available in-home?

When we think of long term care, we often think of care facilities such as assisted living or nursing homes. However, a great deal of long term care is provided in the home. Here are some examples of care you might receive in-home:

  • Home Health Care (usually covered by insurance for a limited time range related to a specific recovery goals and patient needs)
  • Home Care (may be provided by an agency, from a caregiver registry, from private hired caregivers and from family)
  • Senior Companion Services (these visits are usually shorter, perhaps 2 hours, and provide engagement, connection and socialization in the home)
  • Transportation Services (rides to and from medical appointments, meetings, social activities – some are provided by the state and may be free; others can be hired by professional caregivers at cost)
  • Emergency Medical Alert Systems
  • Personal Care Services (cooking, household chores, dressing, bathing or even dog walking)

Next Steps for LTC:

Long term care is often needed after an emergency. We may need care after an accident or an unexpected surgery. We can have mental health issues present without much notice (single-incident trauma for example). While we can’t always prepare for these emergencies, we can prepare and plan for the possibility of needing LTC. We can prepare financially. We can also find the best sources for LTC in our communities before we need to bring help into the home.

For more information on LTC and for an individualized plan to prepare for care, consult a Professional Care Manager. The time to prepare is now.

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