What is Long-term Care?

Long-term care is a term that describes a wide range of care needs and ways of providing that care. It includes services that meet medical and non-medical requirements for people who cannot fully care for themselves for long durations of time. Long-term care is typically very individualized and may be provided formally by a professional, informally by friends and family members, or both. Whether provided by professionals or family, long-term care has associated costs that can become a burden. Planning for long-term care needs and how to pay for them can help to save money while ensuring that the person receives all the care they need.

Formal facilities that provide long term care go by various names:  residential continuing care facility, assisted living, nursing home, home for the aged, and personal care facility, to name a few. The level of care a person requires impacts which types of facilities are appropriate and whether or not the facility will admit that person. For example, a physically fit person with advanced dementia may be appropriate for an assisted living memory care facility; on the other hand, a cognitively healthy person who is entirely dependent for daily physical needs may require nursing home care. In addition to residential facilities, there are also a wide range of in-home caregiving services that can help meet the person’s needs and postpone their transition into residential care.

Informal LTC is often provided, especially in its early stages, by a family member who is willing to provide personal care, meals, laundry services, housekeeping, and transportation services to and from appointments. Informal LTC providers are frequently the adult children of the person needing care. They are often called the “sandwich generation” because they are simultaneously supporting their own children and their aging parents. The stress of providing practical living and emotional care, financially supporting two sets of generations, and taking care of themselves and their own spouses can become overwhelming and have negative effects on the provider’s self-care and well-being. It is a difficult decision to make, but at some point formal LTC becomes necessary for some parents.

What does it mean to plan for long-term care? A long-term care plan involves evaluating the current situation, making educated predictions about future care needs, and considering the costs of those expected care needs. Many families are blown away by the high cost of formal long-term care (easily several thousand dollars per person per month) and have no idea how they will manage to pay for it. Starting early and consulting an experienced professional can help avoid surprises and make sure that a sustainable plan is ready to be implemented when the time comes. A Life Care Planning law firm, which employs both legal and care professionals, is a good place to start assessing needs and planning for the future.

Check out next week’s blog for more information about how to plan for a parent’s long-term care needs.

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