A Guide to Choosing Long-Term Care

See also: Talking About Money

Whether you’re looking for care for a family member or you’re exploring your own long-term planning options, as we age, we may need care. There are a lot of long-term programs available as well as care options and this guide aims to help you in what can be a difficult decision making process. For example, you might have a loved one you can hire as a caregiver under a program like Freedomcare, you could have a professional come to your home, or you might opt for a facility.

The following is a guide to what everyone should know about long-term care and how to plan accordingly.

Understanding Long-Term Care

Long-term care involves a range of services meant to meet someone’s health or personal care needs. Long-term care services help people live safely and independently when they aren’t able to perform certain everyday tasks and activities on their own.

Personal care is the most common type of long-term care. Personal care involves help with everyday activities. These are also known as daily living activities and can include dressing, grooming, bathing, eating, and getting around.

Community services like meals, transportation, and adult day care are also included under the umbrella of long-term care.

Someone might need care if they have a disability or ongoing health condition. The need for long-term care can come up suddenly, for example, following a stroke or heart attack. It can also be something that develops gradually as someone gets older.

It’s difficult to predict who might need long-term care or how much care they could need, but we do know there are factors that make it more likely. The risk tends to go up as people get older, and women are at higher risk than men usually because they live longer. Single people tend to be more likely to need paid help than married people, and lifestyles such as poor diet and a lack of exercise habits can also increase the risk. Health and family history play a role too.

Long-term care can include alterations to your home to make it safer and more accessible, technology that helps you maintain independence, help with meals and housekeeping, and skilled medical care.

A lot of the long-term care people receive is at home and is provided by family and friends. Some people, as mentioned, will decide that a different living arrangement makes the most sense, like a retirement community or assisted living.

Planning for Long-Term Care

It’s a good idea for everyone to have at least a general plan for long-term care if the need arises. The best time to make this plan is well before you need any care so that you have choices and a say in what your future looks like.

When you plan for long-term care, think about where you live now and how your current home might support or perhaps not support changing needs as you age. You want to remember that taking good care of yourself now is part of planning for a healthier future, and you want to learn more about the costs of long-term care.

You can create legal guides so that you remain in charge of your own health care and financial decisions.

More specific considerations to keep in mind as you’re planning for long-term care include:

  • If you end up having a hard time getting around, will your home be a good fit for your needs? The design of your home can make a big impact on your future plans. Universal design features that work well to age in place include entrances that don’t have steps, bedrooms and bathrooms located on the first floor, and open floor plans. Wide hallways and doorways and lower handles on cabinets and doors are also beneficial. Even if your home isn’t perfectly suited to aging in place right now, there are a lot of fairly inexpensive changes you can make.

  • Technology like remote controls, systems that you use to lock and unlock your home from your phone, and health trackers for things like glucose and blood pressure are all useful.

  • What amenities in your community might be important to you as you age? As you get older, you might want to have nearby options like doctor’s offices, pharmacies, and grocery stores, as well as easy access to things like parks and community centers.

  • Are there transportation services available near your community if you need them at any point?

  • Will friends and family be able to help you, and if so, how much? If you aren’t sure, have a discussion with them now, rather than waiting until the time comes that you actually need help.

  • Do your best to stay healthy now by exercising, eating well, and finding ways to get enough sleep and reduce your stress. There are a lot of lifestyle changes you can make that will reduce your risk of chronic illnesses like stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer.

  • Get regular health screenings with your care provider.

Types of Care Options

The following is a general overview of some of the types of long-term care options that are available if you or a loved one ever need them.

  • Living with Family

    If you have an adult child or another family member, you might plan to live with them. You can spend time with your grandchildren, and depending on your family’s situation, they may be able to create an accessible apartment for you.

  • Home-sharing

    Something that’s becoming increasingly popular is the concept of home-sharing among people who aren’t family members. Older couples might, for example, have a student live with them. In exchange for room and board, the student might help them with meals and errands. There are programs throughout the country that will match an older homeowner with a tenant, and they’ll go through background checks and set up rental agreements.

  • 55+ Communities

    A 55+ community is one that’s age-restricted and is like a resort. You might be required to buy a condo or home to be part of the community, or there might be a rental agreement. Most of these communities are designed to be safe and enjoyable and promote socializing, but they aren’t meant to provide any support services.

  • Retirement or Independent Living

    A retirement living community can also be known as an independent living community. These are good options for seniors who are very self-sufficient. The residences may be part of a self-contained community, or they might be a high-rise apartment community. The costs and services can vary quite a bit. There may be services like housekeeping offered, as well as organized activities.

    The level of care is light. It’s more like being in a hotel or a very active neighborhood.

  • Assisted Living

    An assisted living facility can provide some light personal care and medication management with supervision. An assisted living facility will usually offer services like prepared meals, help with daily personal care, and housekeeping. The goal of assisted living, along with that care, is to help people not feel alone.

    Medical services are available as needed, and assisted living care levels tend to vary.

    Since there is so much variance in assisted living, it’s a good idea to check carefully about what’s included and what’s excluded.

  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

    Continuing care retirement communities are a single location with multiple levels of care, including independent and assisted living as well as skilled nursing care. These CCRCs will often have amenities such as restaurants and fitness centers. There’s the opportunity for an active, independent lifestyle, but additional help and support are available if needed, which can create peace of mind.

  • Government-Supported Housing

    Government-supported housing can be available not only to older people who need help but people with disabilities. Typically to qualify, you would have limited assets and income. Government-supported apartments have features like bathroom railings and an emergency call service. These facilities might provide social programs, transportation, and meals.

    It’s common for this type of setting to have a waitlist.

  • Nursing Homes

    A nursing home provides a high level of medical and personal care services. These facilities have around-the-clock care and supervision, help with daily activities, and all meals are provided. The majority of people who live in nursing homes have serious physical or mental health conditions, and often both.

    Skilled nursing facilities aren’t exactly the same as a standard nursing home. Skilled nursing facilities have more nurses and physicians on staff, and they have different regulations they have to adhere to.

  • Memory Care

    If a person has dementia or a serious memory problem, memory care offers a high level of supervision in a safe and structured environment. A secure memory care unit is often found within nursing homes and assisted living communities.

    The staff of a memory care center receives training that’s specialized for people in this group.

Frequently, we underestimate the costs of long-term care, which is why it’s something you can’t start thinking about too soon. You should explore what Medicaid and Medicare might cover and think about long-term care insurance as well.

If you do have long-term care insurance, make sure your family is aware of it because there are families that aren’t aware until after their loved one passes away.

About the Author

Susan Melony: I am an avid writer, traveler, and overall enthusiast. Every day I create a life I love.