Long-Term Care: What Does It Really Mean?

By Pam Gennings, Executive Director Special Projects

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, long-term care is:

A range of services and supports an individual may require to meet personal care needs. Long-term care is not necessarily medical care, but rather assistance with the basic personal tasks of everyday life, sometimes called Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).

Examples of Activities of Daily Living:

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

Other long-term care services and supports include assistance someone may need with everyday tasks, such as:

  • Housework
  • Taking medication
  • Preparing and cleaning up after meals
  • Shopping
  • Managing money
  • Using the telephone
  • Caring for pets
  • Responding to emergencies

Researchers at Georgetown University and Pennsylvania State University found that 70% of individuals age 65 and older will need some form of long-term care during their lives.   Several factors may determine if a person will need care.

  • Age – older individuals are more likely to need long-term care.
  • Gender – women outlive men by an average of five years; so women are more likely to live at home alone when they are older.
  • Disability – having an accident or chronic illness that causes a disability.
  • Health Status – individuals with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes are more likely to need care; family history of chronic conditions, poor diet and lack of exercise increases the chances of needing long-term care.
  • Living Arrangements – individuals that live alone are more likely to need long-term care.

Long-term care is not the same as nursing home care. In fact, most long-term care is provided in the home.

The Administration on Aging reports that over 80% of long-term care is provided by unpaid caregivers such as a family member or friend. The other 20% of long-term care provided in the home includes, but is not limited to, care provided by:

A home care agency such as Oxford HealthCare

Adult day care service centers

Home-delivered meals

Transportation services

Community support services

Outside of the home, there are a variety of options for long-term care such as: nursing homes, residential care facilities, assisted living facilities and retirement communities.

How much long-term care a person will need varies and may change over time. The Administration on Aging reports that on average:

  • Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years).
  • One-third of today’s 65 year olds may never need long term care support, but 20% will need it for longer than 5 years.
  • More people have long-term care provided in their homes and have home care longer than care in a facility.

Most people want to remain in their homes for as long as possible and delay facility care. Plan ahead and educate yourself on what services are available in your community. What services are covered by your insurance? Are there eligibility requirements? Should you consider long-term care insurance?

For help answering questions about long-term care, please call a Care Coordinator at Oxford HealthCare. You can also find information about services in your community at www.eldercare.gov.