What Is Long-Term Care & Who Needs It? 

What is long term care?

Long-term care is a broad term used to describe any type of health or personal assistance care a person may need over an extended period of time. Generally, long-term care services are used to help a person perform activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs include things like bathing, walking, using the bathroom, performing basic hygiene, eating, cooking, and more. Without the ability to perform ADLs, it is impossible for someone to live safely on their own. Long-term care seeks to provide the assistance necessary so that a person can live as safely as possible for as long as possible. 

What Is Long-Term Care?

Long-term care involves a variety of services designed to meet a person’s health needs when they can no longer care for themselves. In certain instances, long-term care is intended to provide a hospital level of care outside of the hospital. In other instances, long-term care is meant to assist a person with their activities of daily living as mentioned above. The term long-term care is often used interchangeably with in-home care, assisted living, memory care, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, or adult day care centers. 

Depending on an individual’s unique abilities and health level, the level of care can vary, which often dictates what type of care they receive and where they receive it. More often than not, unpaid family members provide long-term care services like caregiving at home until their loved one’s care needs become too high. 

Who Would Need Long-Term Care?

If your loved one can no longer shower, cook, take care of their personal hygiene needs, or use the bathroom unassisted, it might be time for long-term care. Sometimes, people need long-term care as a result of natural aging. Other times, an accident or sudden illness may necessitate long-term care. One of the largest growing reasons for long-term care is dementia and Alzheimer’s. If your loved one has early signs of dementia, it could be time to start planning. We never recommend waiting until a crisis occurs to begin your search for long-term care. 

Planning for Long-Term Care

It’s hard to plan for long-term care. Often, families wait until a crisis to start looking for long-term care, which severely limits their options; not to mention the stress it places on everyone. The best time to start thinking about long-term care is before someone needs it. This is true for a few reasons. First, you can begin making budgetary preparations. Second, you can begin making care preparations, deciding where a person will receive long-term care should they need it. Also, if you plan ahead, there may be benefits available to help financially. 

Family Planning – Who Is Affected?

When it comes to long-term care, it’s not just the person in need of care who is affected. As mentioned, many caregivers are family members, providing care out of necessity. Family caregivers provide the same in-home care a professional from an agency would provide. However, unlike a professional caregiver, family caregivers do not receive the same training or preparation a professional would receive. This can cause major strain on a caregiver’s wellbeing. 

If you have family members nearby, are they willing to help? Start with those closest to you and work your way outward before considering professional help. Imagine what type of assistance would be most beneficial to your wellbeing. Would home cleaning, grocery assistance, transportation, or even a day off per week help improve your mental health? Or are those tasks easy and you’d prefer help with some of the trickier ADLs like bathing, medication management, medical care, etc.? You’d be surprised that many family members are willing to step in and help if they are asked.

Many people do not know the difficulty of caregiving and mistakenly believe a caregiver has it all taken care of with ease. Or, if family members can’t physically assist, maybe they can financially help you out with grocery deliveries, house cleaning services, or transportation.  

Housing Planning

When thinking about long-term care, it is important to consider where you or your loved one would like to live. Are you planning on aging in place? If so, it helps to know which caregiving agencies are available if a family member cannot provide care. Or, alternatively, are you planning on living in a long-term care community like assisted living? Living arrangements change as care needs increase, but it helps to have a plan of action in place. Do you have a specific area in mind? If so, Senior Planning can help you discover what options are available, at no cost to you. We can also help you find places based on budget if budget concerns are more important. 

Financial Planning

On average, care costs between $2,500-$7,000 per month, which can deplete most American bank accounts after a short time. With people living longer, the duration of care years has also increased, but many people find themselves financially drained after the first year with more time to go.

Paying for long-term care is many people’s top concern in their retirement years. Most seniors live on a fixed income with minimal savings, so paying for care privately is sometimes not an option. Often, seniors rely on different types of payment sources, such as: 

  • Personal savings or personal income, also known as private pay
  • Government programs like Medicaid Long-Term Care. (Many people mistakenly believe Medicare will pay for long-term care, but beyond a maximum of 100 days at a skilled nursing facility, Medicare cannot be relied on to truly provide funds.) 
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Veterans benefits

What is Medicaid Long-Term Care?

Also known as ALTCS (Arizona Long Term Care System), Medicaid can be used to pay for long-term care indefinitely. As long as a person meets certain medical and financial requirements, Medicaid will help cover the costs of long-term care. ALTCS will help cover costs at nursing homes, assisted living facilities, residential care homes, and for a certain amount of hours of in-home care. If you would like more information on ALTCS, submit your information above and a Senior Planning representative will be in touch within one business day.

Types of Long-Term Care Services

Home Care

Home care can be provided by a paid caregiver or by family members. In-home care allows a person to remain in their own home while still receiving long-term care. For those who have family members willing and able to provide care, this can be the most comfortable form of long-term care. Often the work is unpaid, but if a person is eligible, they may be able to get their family member paid as a caregiver through ALTCS. If you’re looking for an agency to provide care, be aware that this option can get expensive very quickly, but ALTCS can still help with a portion of the bill in most cases. 

Adult Day Care

Adult day care is designed to give family caregivers a bit of a break. Most people rely on adult day care for short stints rather than as an overall care plan. 

There are three main types of adult day care: social day care, health day care, and memory day care. Social care centers are places where a senior can receive help with meals, recreation, engage in social interactions, and get limited health-related services. Health day care centers provide care for people who need intensive care and supervision. Those in adult day health centers usually require a nursing home level of care. The third type, memory day care, is devoted to those with chronic cognitive issues like dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Patients must pay per day, but day care can be less expensive than moving a person into a long-term care facility. If the day care is not considered social day care, and the patient meets certain eligibility qualifications, Medicaid may pay for a portion of the bill. 

Assisted Living

Assisted living is probably the most well-known form of long-term care. Usually, when people talk about assisted living, they are referring to the type of care most commonly found at large facilities. Assisted living is designed to help seniors with their ADLs. Staffed caregivers are available 24 hours a day to help assist with daily needs. Assisted living requires that a person not be incapacitated or require special medical supervision or care. 

Nursing Home Care

Nursing homes provide care at a level akin to that of a hospital. This can be beneficial for people recovering from surgery, a fall, an accident, or any other type of hospitalization. Nursing homes are the only form of long-term care paid for by Medicare since they are not intended to be used forever. Many times, people transition from nursing homes into assisted living facilities after they have sufficiently recovered from the event that put them into nursing care. Nursing homes are also referred to as rehab centers and skilled nursing facilities. 

Independent Living 

Independent living, often referred to as a retirement community, provides seniors the most freedom of any long-term care choice. Usually, residents live in apartments, condos, or in homes developed around a central clubhouse. Independent living must be paid for privately, but unlike living in a non-retirement community, seniors have access to services like community dining, laundry, housekeeping, yard work, and transportation. Independent living is perfect for seniors who just need a little bit of extra help without the full service of assisted living. 

Getting Assistance Applying for Medicaid 

Although Medicaid (ALTCS) is a great option to pay for long-term care, many people are frustrated to learn there is an application process. The application consists of two parts. The first portion is medical, where the state ensures an applicant is at the correct level of care. The second part is financial, where the state performs a financial background check to make sure a person is below a certain income and asset level. The state also checks for any transfers, sales, or gifts of property. Generally the application takes around 60-90 days to complete.

This might sound straight forward, but a majority of applicants fail, either delaying their benefits or never receiving them. This is why Senior Planning created a robust application service aimed at getting people approved in the quickest manner possible. We want you to get the services you need, when you need them. Senior Planning helps with both the financial and medical portions, making sure you are eligible and ready before opening an application. We help with trusts when needed, transfers, obtaining medical records, and more. Give us a call today to find out more. 

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