The need for long-term care may begin gradually as you find that you need more and more help with activities of daily living, such as bathing and dressing or independent activities of daily living (IADLs) such
as household chores, meal preparation, or managing money. Or you may suddenly need long term care after a major illness, such as a stroke or
a heart attack. If you do need care, you may need nursing home or home health care for only a short time. Or, you may need these services for many
months, years or the rest of your life.
It is hard to know if and when you will need long-term care, but there are some statistics that may help. For example:
- Life expectancy after age 65 has now increased to 17.9 years. In 1940, life expectancy after 65 was only 13 extra years. The longer people live, the greater the chances they will need assistance due to chronic conditions.
- About 12.8 million Americans of all ages require long-term care, but only 2.4 million live in nursing homes.
- About 44% of people reaching age 65 are expected to enter a nursing home at least once in their lifetime. Of those who do enter a nursing home, about 53% will stay for one year or more.
- Most persons needing long-term care are elderly. Approximately 63% are persons aged 65 and older (6.3 million). The remaining 37% are 64 years of age or younger (3.7 million).
- The lifetime probability of becoming disabled in at least two activities of daily living or being cognitively impaired is 68% for people age 65 and older.
- By 2050, the number of individuals using paid long-term care services or skilled nursing facilities will likely double from 13 million to 27 million. This estimate is influenced by growth in the population of older people in need of care.