What is Long Term Care?

Long-term care is the care you need when you are no longer able to care for yourself. It is generally personal care, such as help with bathing, eating or dressing required over a lengthy period of time.

It can range from simple assistance in your own home to assistance required in a residential care facility, or it can be highly skilled care in a nursing facility.

All services are designed to improve or maintain an individuals health and to maintain the individual in the least restrictive setting that ensures their health, safety, and welfare.

Cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer's and other diseases may also trigger the need for long term care, even though physically the person appears to be fine.

Over 95% of long term care is custodial care and is not covered by health insurance, HMO's, Medicare or supplemental policies. These are for short term not long term care. Without long term care insurance you will have to pay out of savings for care.

If someone is in need of long term care now then read Planning for Long Term Care. Long term care insurance is probably not an option for them anymore but they might qualify for an annuity with long term care rider depending on their age. If you are still healthy consider long term care insurance while you still can.

Some Long Term Care Facts:

More than 70% of Americans who live to retirement age will need long-term care at some time in their lives 1.

In 2006, the national average cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home was $171 per day 2.

With an average stay of 2.4 years 3, that's more than $160,000 per average stay.

Home health care can be expensive as well. Few people can afford these costs without using their life savings or having insurance.

1. "Americans Fail to Act on Long Term Care Protection," American Society on Aging, May 2003.
2. National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information
3. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, "Health Care & The 2004 Elections," October 10, 2004.

Next: Who pays for long term care?