Long Term Care – What is it and What Are the Benefits?

Long term care goes beyond medical care and nursing care to include services that you would need if you suffer from a chronic illness or a disability and were unable to care for yourself for an extended period of time. In medicine, a chronic disease is a disease that is long-lasting or recurrent. The term chronic describes the progression of the disease, or its rate of onset and development. Chronicity is usually applied to a condition that is persistent and lasts more than three months. The opposite of chronic is acute. Acute would be a condition that has a rapid onset and goes away relatively quickly.I am going to some length to differentiate a chronic condition versus an acute condition because long term care is very expensive, and despite what most people believe, Medicare will not pay for the majority of the long term care services that are needed. Why? Because Medicare was designed to pay for medical care that is acute and will result in the insured ultimately to returning to their normal lifestyle.Long term care involves a number of services and support mechanisms to meet health or personal care needs over an extended period of time. Many long term care services are provided by non-skilled personal such as home healthcare workers. They would include services associated with bathing, dressing, eating, using the toilet, transferring (moving from a bed to a chair), and incontinence. The goal with long term care services is to create an environment for the chronically ill individual that maximizes their ability to exist an an independent, functioning individual.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 9 million Americans over the age of 65 will need this kind of service in 2010. That number is expected to grow to 12 million by the year 2020. While it is the elderly who are frequent users of this kind of care, a devastating illness or an accident can leave a person of any age in need. Forty percent of those individuals receiving services today are between the ages of 18 and 64.How likely am I to need long term care services?

Statistics show that 70% of the population over the age of 65 will need some form of long term care during their lifetime. And, over 40% of these individuals will require care in a nursing home prior to their death. Several factors contribute to the need for long term care:General health and family medical history are major contributors

Lifestyle- poor diet and lack of exercise can lead to an early need

Unmarried individuals and those with spouses that pre-decease them are very likely to need paid care.

Women, due to the fact that they live on the average 7.8 years longer than men are at risk

Longevity- the aging of the population has led to a greater need for this type of careHow long will I need this type of care?

That is a very difficult question to answer. Nationally, for those individuals who need care of the age of 65, the needed care will last an average of three years. Needs and services required will vary over time. Woman on average need care for 3.7 years while men average 2.2 years. Approximately one third of Americans over the age of 65 will never require services. However, of the remaining two thirds, it is expected that 20 percent of them will need care in excess of 5 years.

If you do need care, it will likely fall in one of the following four categories:1. Informal care from a family member or friend. This is usually un-paid care.

2. Formal paid care for services rendered in the home from a nurse, home care aide, or therapist

3. Community care associated with adult day care centers

4. Care furnished in assisted living centers or skilled nursing facilities.

Will my long term care needs change over time?

As discussed in the first paragraph, care for individuals will chronic conditions usually progresses gradually. They initially may only need assistance two or three times a week for such things as bathing, cooking/eating or dressing. As the individual’s disease becomes more debilitating, they may need continual hands on care or constant supervision 24 hours a day for conditions like Alzheimer’s.

Care in a facility may last a short time such as when an aged person breaks a hip and need time in a rehab hospital so that they can return to a fully functioning lifestyle. And, then there is the other extreme where a severe stroke occurs and then individual needs months or even years in a skilled nursing facility.

Planning for long term care events-Individuals in their 50’s and 60’s need to look ahead to when they are no longer able to care for themselves. Planning is key. None of want to be ward’s of the State Government and depend on Medicaid for providing the care we need in our later needs. Assets need to be protected for future generations. This can only be done through estate planning and considering options such as long term care insurance.

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