What Is Long-Term Care and Who Might Need It?

Published In Insurance

Long-term care is a range of services and supports that are available when a person needs help with their day-to-day personal care. For the most part, it is not medical care, but instead, it pertains to assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs are frequently defined as including:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Using the toilet
  • Transferring (to or from a bed or chair)
  • Caring for incontinence
  • Eating

Other common activities that come within the ambit of long-term care are sometimes called incidental activities of daily living (IADLs). They are not as basic to daily living as ADLs and are usually said to include:

  • Housework
  • Handling money
  • Taking medication
  • Cooking and cleaning up after meals
  • Shopping
  • Using the telephone or other communication devices
  • Caring for pets
  • Responding to emergency alerts such as alarms

Who Might Need Long Term Care and Why

According to statistics provided by the federal government, many factors come into play in evaluating the potential need for long-term care. Not surprisingly, older people are more likely to need long-term care than younger people.

However, the potential need of the elderly for long-term care can be counterbalanced to some degree by the fact that younger people are more likely to still be working. Consequently, they may be involved in serious work-related accidents requiring long-term care. Additionally, younger people may drive more than older people, have a greater likelihood of motor vehicle collisions, and thereby, sustain injuries necessitating long-term care.

Women are more likely to require long-term care. This is because they tend to live longer than men.

People who are disabled or who have chronic diseases are more likely to need long-term care than persons who are not. It’s clear why some disabled people are more likely to need it. This is especially true if an individual is seriously, or moreover, catastrophically injured. A catastrophic injury is often technically defined as an extraordinarily severe injury, including injury to the spinal cord, skull, or brain, and amputations, or some combination of these. Catastrophic injuries are also often classified based on their outcomes, like the inability of the injured to attend to his or her activities of daily living or incidental activities of daily living as a result of their injury.

A chronic disease is one that is persistent and long-lasting. It is more specifically defined as lasting more than three months and that cannot be prevented by vaccines nor cured by medication. They don’t just go away. Common current chronic illnesses include:

  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Obesity
  • ALS
  • Dementia

No Matter How the Need Arises, Long Term Care Can Be Costly

According to a 2021 study by Genworth Insurance (a major writer of long-term care insurance),  if you ever require a home health aid (the lowest level of care), it will run about $27/hour.  If you need full-time nursing care in a nursing facility in a private room (the most expensive level of care), the median cost in some regions of the country is about $108,405 annually.. Other locations can be much more expensive, and some less expensive. Even at the median cost, it is easy to see how a great deal of money can be “blown through” very quickly.

Understand that we are not insurance salespeople or financial advisors. We have no vested interest in the decisions that you make for yourself and your family. However, we are concerned that you make your decisions after considering the facts, and realities that you may not have been aware of.

In later articles, we’ll discuss variations in long-term care insurance policies and what factors to consider in deciding.

(This article was reviewed January, 2024 since it originally published in June, 2016.)

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