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What Is Long-Term Care

Long-term care (LTC) is a term used to describe the care needed by someone who must depend on others for help with daily activities. A goal of long-term care is to help people with chronic health problems or dementia live as independently as possible. While many people think that long-term care happens only in a nursing home, in fact, most is given by family caregivers in the persons' homes.
Long-term care involves a variety of services and supports to meet health or personal care needs over an extended period of time, sometimes for the rest of an individual's life. Broadly, that includes care provided in any setting for elders or people with disabilities. These settings include private homes, adult day care, assisted living, or nursing homes. Most long-term care is "non-skilled personal care assistance," such as help performing everyday Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), which include bathing, dressing, using the toilet, transferring (to or from a bed or chair), moving or walking from place to place, and eating. The goal of long-term care services is to help you or your family member maintain functioning and quality of life at a time when a person needs to depend on others to do the things he or she used to be able to do by himself or herself.

Facts about Long-Term Care

Although we like to think of ourselves as always being independent, we are not. Throughout our lifetime we depend on others. This need often increases as we age.
  • About 70 percent of individuals over age 65 will require at least some type of long-term care during their lifetime.
  • 20 percent will need care for more than five years.
  • More than 40 percent of individuals over age 65 will need care in a nursing home for some period of time. 

(U.S Department of Health and Human Services, National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information, 2008)

Definition of an Elder

"An Elder is a person who is still growing, still a learner, still with potential, and whose life continues to have within it, promise for and connection to the future. An Elder is still in pursuit of happiness, joy and pleasure, and her or his birthright to these remains intact. Moreover, an Elder is a person who deserves respect and honor and whose work is to synthesize wisdom from long life experience and formulate this into a legacy for future generations.

Barry Barkan,
Live Oak Institute
Choice and relationships
are the most important values in long-term care, but they are often not well supported in the present system, nor are their importance fully understood. However, nursing homes and assisted living communities are taking a leadership position in changing this for the better. This guide will tell you about these changes. It will provide you with information and resources to help you and your family members have conversations about the choices that are available for how and where you age. It will also explain why it is so important to work to protect your choices and your right to advocate for ongoing positive changes for the future.

On this site, we use terms such as individuals, consumers, and elders to describe those who receive assistance. People of all ages may need supports and services to assist them in their daily lives, but many are elders.  When we call older adults elders, it reflects our respect for years lived, contributions made, and wisdom gained. We hope that this guide will help you acknowledge and embrace your own aging and elderhood, and the opportunities and choices that are still to come.

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