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What Is Long-Term Care?

Someone with a prolonged physical illness, a disability or a cognitive impairment(such as Alzheimer’s disease) often needs long term care. Many different services help people with chronic conditions overcome limitations that keep them from being independent. Long-term care is different from traditional medical care. Long term care helps one live as he or she is now; it may not help to improve or correct medical problems. Long term care services may include help with activities of daily living, home health care, respite care, hospice care, adult day care, care in a nursing home, or care in an assisted living facility. Long term care may also include care management services, which will evaluate your needs and coordinate and monitor the delivery of long-term care services.

Someone with a physical illness or disability often needs hands-on or stand-by assistance with activities of daily living. People with cognitive impairments usually need supervision, protection or verbal reminders to do everyday activities. The way long term care services are provided is changing. Skilled care and personal care are still the terms used most often to describe long term care and the type or level of care you may need.

People usually need skilled care for medical conditions that require care by medical personnel such as registered nurses or professional therapists. This care is usually needed 24 hours a day, a physician must order it, and it must follow a plan. Individuals usually get skilled care in a nursing home but may also receive it in other places. For example, you might get skilled care in your home with help from visiting nurses or therapists. Skilled care includes physical therapy, caring for a wound, or supervising the Administration of intravenous medication.

NOTE: Medicare and Medicaid have their own definitions of skilled care. Please refer to The Guide to Health Insurance for People with Medicare or The Medicare Handbook to find out how Medicare defines skilled care. Contact your local social services office for questions about Medicaid’s definition of skilled care. For copies of these publications, contact your state insurance department or State Health Insurance.

Personal care sometimes called custodial care) helps one with activities of daily living (ADL’s.) These activities include bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, continence and transferring (Moving from point A to point B). Personal care is less involved than skilled care, and it may be given in many settings.

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