What is Long Term Care?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Long term care may conjure up images of people staying in nursing homes, sometimes called long term or custodial care facilities, and these images typically involve the elderly. While it’s true that the need for this kind of care may be greatest among the elderly population, there are young people requiring it too, and it doesn’t always have to occur in a nursing home. Any person who has daily basic or medical care needs that exist over a lengthy time period, requires long term care, and these needs could be met in group homes, nursing homes, or at home, depending upon the person’s medical status and the ease at which caregivers can provide this care.

Sometimes family members provide long term care.
Sometimes family members provide long term care.

There are a number of people who work in the long term or custodial care field, including the spouses, parents, children, and other relatives or friends on which the person needing care depends. Other caregivers could include home health aides, nurses, doctors, physical therapists, and a variety of allied health professionals. Care needs may be diverse, but many people in this situation need help with simple things like bathing, getting dressed, toileting, and possibly eating. Someone may also need to oversee medication or any other therapies provided.

There are many potential choices for the person requiring custodial care about how basic care can be provided. Some families do turn their homes into mini-facilities for a loved one, or they look for group facilities for those who have similar medical/mental/physical issues that might provide companionship and still feel less like a hospital. The other option is a custodial care facility or nursing home.

In long term facilities, people are provided with the help of caretakers, but there is a general fear about of most of these “homes.” It is true that studies in the US and Canada have uncovered alarming statistical evidence regarding the degree to which some of these homes operate properly. Incidence of patient abuse, failure to provide basic care, and violations of basic hygiene can sometimes be extremely discouraging to the family who needs to place a person in long term care. It should be noted that many excellent custodial facilities exist, and that families can provide their own oversight by visiting patients frequently. In the best possible scenario a patient should not be neglected by family in the facility care setting, even if it proves difficult to visit.

One thing often noted about custodial care, is that no matter where it takes place it can be gravely expensive. Programs like Medicare, which typically serves those in the US who are 65 or older, do not pay for it. While Medicare continues to cover medical needs, it won’t pay for home health aides, special equipment as related to long term care or stays in long term care facilities. These costs are either paid for by the person requiring the care, and are well-noted for ultimately bankrupting people. Alternately, Medicaid, which is not celebrated for its rate at which it pays, covers them.

There are some special types of long term care insurance that may help meet some costs, and provide greater options in choosing care. Some people believe these are well worth the investment, though they easily cost a couple hundred US Dollars (USD) a month, and they may be term-limited. Insurance may be a good option, but perhaps even more important is having families discuss this issue well in advance of ever encountering it. What would be best, what would people want, and what could family do if a custodial care need arose? Answering these questions may help create a long term care plan, which will hopefully never have to be put into place.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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