LTC Understanding Long Term Care
This article is taken in part from The Consumer’s Guide to Long-Term Care published by the California Department of Aging’s Health Insurance Counseling and Advocacy Program. I have tried to edit this part of the article to be more general in nature. Please check with your insurance advisor before putting any of this information to work for you.
Understanding Long-Term Care
What is Long-Term Care?
Long-Term care is the kind of assistance you need when you need help with personal care. The need for this assistance usually results from a disabling or long-term medical or physical condition. Long-term care services can include in-home care, as well as nursing home or community- based care.
Will I Need Long-Term Care Services As I Get Older?
Anyone may need long-term care services. An accident or a sudden, serious illness can create a need for services, as can the slow progression of chronic disease or Parkinson’s disease. Age or frailty may also be contributing factors. People who live to be very old are more apt to need long-term care services than those who die at a younger age.
Women are more likely to need long-term care services than men. One reason may be their longer life expectancy; women outlive men by about eight years. At any given time, of those ages 75 and over, 30 percent of men, need assistance with personal care.
Women tend to marry men who are older. Since women also have longer life expectancies, they usually outlive their husbands. It is not unusual to find an older man being cared for by his younger wife. When a woman needs long-term care services, they are more often provided by a daughter-in-law, or in a nursing home.
Only 25 percent of people who were married at the time of their death spent some time in a nursing home.
In contrast, 40 percent of those who were widowed, divorced, separated or never married spent time in a nursing facility.
Women have more chronic diseases that impair mobility, such as arthritis and osteoporosis, than men. Men have more acute health episodes that lead to earlier and quicker death.
Mental (Cognitive) Impairments
Mental impairment often leads to the need for long-term care. People with mental impairments stay in nursing homes longer than those who only suffer from physical infirmities. Also, some families have a genetic disposition toward Alzheimer’s disease, stroke or other mentally disabling conditions.
Family Circumstances/ Support Systems
Whether a person can remain at home is often dependant on his or her support system. Many older people do not live near their children; their support system consists of neighbors and friends who may not always be available. If an older person does live near family, family caregivers may work full time or be unable to offer as much help as is needed.
What Are The Risks of Needing Long-Term Care?
Home and Community Care
Only a small percent of people who need long-term care assistance live in nursing homes. At ages 65 to 79, 17 percent of those living at home need assistance; this number jumps to 28 percent for those 75 to 84 and almost half (49 percent) at age 85+. The most common type of assistance needed is help with walking. The chart on page 8 shows the activities of daily living limitations for people over 65 who reside in the community.
What Can I Do To Reduce My Chance of Needing Long-Term Care?
Some of us will need assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) when we are very old, no matter how well we take care of ourselves. Diseases such as arthritis and osteoporosis affect mobility and may lead to dependence on other people. However, recent research demonstrates that we are more in control of our own aging than previously assumed.
Good nutrition and regular exercise are the key ingredients to a healthy and active old age. And the earlier we get started, the better. High fiber, low-fat diets decrease the incidence of cancer, heart disease and many other “modern” ailments as well. And exercise may be equally as important as nutrition in helping us to remain active through our lifetime.
Although our muscles decrease in size as we age, weak muscles are not a normal part of aging. Elderly people who exercise have minimal deterioration in muscle tone. Walking, combined with moderate stretching exercises to retain flexibility, is by far the best exercise. Although illness or injury can affect the muscles and joints, with good medical treatment, even this damage can be greatly reduced. There is no magic ingredient that allows us to stay fit. It takes determination, discipline, belief that good nutrition and exercise are worth effort, and a little bit of luck!
Of course, there are some things we cannot control. Alzheimer’s and similar diseases that affect the functioning of the brain and nervous system often lead to the need for long-term care. Over half of nursing home residents experience a cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s disease. Not only is this a devastating condition, but currently there is no known cure.