Here’s how the National Institute on Aging (NIA) describes long-term care:
“Long-term care involves a variety of services designed to meet a person’s health or personal care needs during a short or long period of time. Long-term care services help people live as independently and safely as possible when they can no longer perform everyday activities on their own.”
On the whole, this is a great, succinct definition, for an incredibly important concept. Now, let’s flesh out some of the most important considerations about long-term care – and how they apply to you!
Let’s dive into what you need to know about long-term care for yourself or your aging family – including why it’s so meaningful, what options you have available, the steps you can take to prepare for long-term care, and the financial considerations that may be important to keep in mind.
The Critical Importance of Long-Term Care
As we get older, it can become more and more difficult to take care of ourselves in the way we used to. As we age, physical and mental changes can affect our ability to move and get around, to keep up a social itinerary, or to take care of our homes.
If you’re an adult child of an aging parent, you may be starting to see this in your own older family members. When these changes take place, long-term care is a way of ensuring that those we love are able to continue to live a full and complete life. Long-term care options can help older adults to remain independent and take care of themselves for longer, by ensuring that their health and safety needs are met.
This can also benefit family members of aging adults, helping give them peace of mind and affording them more time to relax, recharge, and focus on other things, confident that their loved ones are still getting the critical support and attention they deserve.
In short? Long-term care is vital for making sure that older adults are able to always live rich, active lives, no matter how their health needs may change with time.
And as the population in this country continues to age rapidly, understanding the ins and outs of long-term care is only going to become more important. In fact, a report from the Department of Health and Human Services, brought to our attention by the AARP, suggests that 70 percent of those turning age 65 “can expect to use some form of long-term care during their lives” – even though “most Americans don’t believe they’ll need long-term care.”
What Are Your Long-Term Care Options?
On the most basic level, long-term care is about helping older adults and those with chronic illnesses or disabilities maintain their independence and quality of life by ensuring that their health and personal care needs are met. As a result, there are different routes for long-term care available, depending on each person’s unique wants and needs, their lifestyle goals, their budget, and their health condition.
A few common types of long-term care include:
- Assisted Living: An assisted living facility allows older adults to live in a residential setting with constant access to support services, food and transportation options, and health care providers.
- Nursing Home: A nursing home facility may be a viable option for older adults with significant health needs, who require constant medical care and attention and substantial assistance with their activities of daily living.
- Home Health Care: In this arrangement, you or your loved one may continue to live at home, with a skilled nurse living on-site or visiting part-time to assist with significant medical needs, such as administering medications or assisting with physical rehabilitation.
- Non-Medical Home Care: With non-medical home care, you or your loved one can continue to live at home. On a regular schedule – from as much as every day, to as little as an hour or two per week – a trained caregiver can assist the senior with activities of daily living, housekeeping, grooming, meal prep, and more. This allows the older adult to remain in the comfort of their own home, with the support of a trusted aide who can help deliver their personalized care plan as needed.
As we noted earlier, everyone’s wants and needs are going to be a little bit different. But one important thing to keep in mind? In study after study, research shows that an enormous majority older adults prefer to age in place, in the comfort and security of their own homes. There are also numerous proven benefits to aging in place for older adults, including increased independence, higher rates of happiness and satisfaction, and improved health and wellbeing.
As you begin to research different care options, Companions for Seniors can help. Don’t hesitate to drop us a line to discuss your thoughts, or use our site as a resource. To get started, be sure to visit our guide on the differences between assisted living and home care, and check out our list of questions to ask potential professional caregivers.
How to Plan Ahead for Long-Term Care
When it comes to long-term care, it helps to think ahead. As the NIA puts it:
“…an unexpected accident, illness, or injury can change your needs, sometimes suddenly. The best time to think about long-term care is before you need it.”
It’s of the utmost importance to plan ahead for long-term care – and to help your aging loved ones do the same.
The more of a “head start” you give yourself or your loved ones, the better position you’ll be in when it comes time to put your care plan into action. Getting started early gives you a chance to consider your health needs, your lifestyle goals, and your financial picture – all while also giving you the opportunity to research different types of long-term care, and consider all of the local options and services available in your area.
As you get started planning for the possibility of long-term care, the NIA encourages thinking about three key areas:
- Housing. One of the most important questions that many older adults face is: “Where are you going to live?” It’s important to take your housing wants and needs into account early on. Do you want to age in place? Is it realistically possible, given the state of your home, or the condition of your health? What type of residential setup will best equip you for the future?
- Health. As you look ahead to long-term care, it’s important to take stock of your health. Whatever stage of life’s journey you may be on, the NIA recommends taking steps to stay healthier now, so that you can avoid having a significant health issue later. Some ideas include “healthy eating, regular physical activity, not smoking, and limited drinking of alcohol,” while also speaking with a medical professional to understand your family history and lifestyle, and how they may impact your long-term health. Another important step is to create an advanced care directive, an important legal document that can help your friends, family, and medical professionals make important decisions about your health care in the long-term.
- Finances. As an individual or as a household, it’s important to consider the financial realities of long-term care. Health care, housing, transportation, food, and other expenses can quickly add up. Are you budgeting now for long-term care? Could federal or local aid programs help you offset some of the costs? Are you able to comparison-shop between different types of long-term care, or different service providers?
Are you a loving and supportive family member of an aging adult? If so, you may be wondering if it’s the right time to put your long-term care plan into action. In other cases, you may be considering all of your options, but unsure of how to bring up these weighty conversations with your aging loved ones. Let us help! Be sure to check out our resources on determining when is the right time to get help for your aging loved one, and how to best take care of the people who took care of you.
Paying for Long-Term Care
It’s important to consider the financial side of long-term care. Certainly, there are costs associated with getting service, no matter which type of long-term care option you choose. Are you fully prepared to address these expenses and fees?
One of the most important steps you can take is to consider your options for covering the costs of long-term care. For instance, it’s important to consider the role that federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid can and can’t play in assisting with care costs. For instance, Medicare is often limited when it comes to “custodial care” benefits, such as personal care for activities of daily living. In other cases, it may be important to look into long-term care insurance, which can help provide coverage for many important services. Life insurance, your retirement funds, and your personal income are also important factors to weigh as you consider the cost of care.
As you get started finding the long-term care options that will best suit your needs, keep costs in mind – but don’t let fear of payment delay your search for help. Be sure to ask different care providers if they accept any payment assistance programs, how they structure fees, and so on.
Let Companions for Seniors Help
Here at Companions for Seniors, our mission is to empower seniors to live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home by helping them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
Our Companions are trained, bonded, and insured, and our team can help your loved ones develop and implement a personalized care plan, all to help the older adult in your life maintain a higher quality of life – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Caring for others isn’t just what we do; it’s our passion. We’re always here to be an open and sympathetic ear, and we’re happy to help guide you in the right direction when it comes to long-term care. Have any questions? Ready to start thinking seriously about long-term care? Don’t hesitate to get in touch today to get the conversation started.