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Understanding Long-Term Care


What is long-term care, you might ask? Long-term care is care that you need if you can no longer perform everyday tasks by yourself – perhaps because of a chronic illness, injury, disability or the aging process.

What can long-term care involve?

According to the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), long-term care may also include:

  • Help with medication
  • Supervision you might need for dementia (such as Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Paying bills and managing money
  • Food preparation and other help with meals
  • Shopping for necessities
  • Care for pets

This isn’t a complete list, but just a sampling of some ways people may need help with long-term care.

The setting for long-term care can vary. You might get this care in your home, in a nursing home, or in an assisted living facility, for example.

Long-term care: start figuring out what you need

To understand your long-term care needs and options, you might focus on three things:

  • What type of care is needed?
  • Who are the quality providers in long-term care?
  • How will this care be paid?

What type of long-term care do I need?

Some people may need long-term skilled nursing care. Others might need help dressing, bathing, and doing daily tasks. Do you or a loved one that is Medicare eligible need help with daily living activities, health care, or both?

Why is it important to distinguish between “custodial” care (such as help dressing and bathing) and skilled nursing care? It’s because the type of care may affect whether Medicare covers it. Other health insurance might also consider the type of long-term care you need.

  • Daily activities and long-term care: Some common daily living activities that may require long-term care include: assistance with dressing, bathing, preparing meals, eating, walking, going to the bathroom, transportation, housekeeping, doing laundry, shopping, remembering to take medications, and paying bills. These are just examples of the many ways you might need non-skilled nursing help with long-term care.
  • Healthcare needs and long-term care: You or your loved one that is Medicare eligible might need skilled care, such as physical, speech, occupational or medical nutrition therapy; wound care; oxygen or medication administration; and other nursing care.

What type of long-term care facility would provide the services I need?

Once you determine what type of care is necessary, you can match the type of long-term care provider with the type of assistance you or a loved one that is Medicare eligible needs.

Skilled nursing long-term care: Nursing homes commonly fill this need. You can also hire health-care providers, like licensed nurses, to come to your home.

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