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Choosing Long-Term Care

"Long-term care" means helping people of any age with their medical needs or daily activities over a long period of time. Long-term care can be provided at home, in the community, or in various types of facilities. This section deals mainly with older people who need long-term care. However, the information also may be useful for younger people with disabilities or illnesses that require long-term care. When you look for long-term care, it is important to remember that quality varies from one place or caregiver to another. It is also important to think about long-term care before a crisis occurs. Making long-term care decisions can be hard even when planned well in advance.

Quick Check for Quality

Look for long-term care that:

  • Has been found by State agencies, accreditors, or others to provide quality care
  • Has the services you need
  • Has staff that meet your needs
  • Meets your budget

Research shows that to make the best choices, you need to think about:

  • What your options are
  • Whether they meet your or your family member's needs (physical, medical, emotional, financial, etc.)
  • How to find the highest quality care

Types of Long-Term Care

Research shows that many people do not know about or understand long-term care options. Following are brief descriptions of the major types of long-term care:

Home care can be given in your own home by family members, friends, volunteers, and/or paid professionals. This type of care can range from help with shopping to nursing care. Some short-term, skilled home care (provided by a nurse or therapist) is covered by Medicare and is called "home health care." Another type of care that can be given at home is hospice care for terminally ill people.

Community services are support services that can include adult day care, meal programs, senior centers, transportation, and other services. These can help people who are cared for at home-and their families. For example, adult day care services provide a variety of health, social, and related support services in a protective setting during the day. This can help adults with impairments-such as Alzheimer's disease-continue to live in the community. And it can give family or friend caregivers a needed "break."

Supportive housing programs offer low-cost housing to older people with low to moderate incomes. The Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and State or local governments often develop such housing programs. A number of these facilities offer help with meals and tasks such as housekeeping, shopping, and laundry. Residents generally live in their own apartments.

Assisted living provides 24-hour supervision, assistance, meals, and health care services in a home-like setting. Services include help with eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, taking medicine, transportation, laundry, and housekeeping. Social and recreational activities also are provided.

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WebMD Public Information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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