Long Term Care Services and Providers
Some form of long term care has existed within the society for a long time – almost hundred years, but the need has become very urgent in the recent years. With longer life-spans, busier everyday schedules, complicated medical conditions, more and more people need extended care. Long term care refers to the care, support and supervision given to patients who are unable to take care of themselves or need physical assistance for doing everyday activities. Some may need constant medical supervision also.
The concept of long term care has evolved through the decades from being an unorganized and informal system to a planned and streamlined system meant to cater to all types of requirements. With the passage of various government laws, long term care regulations have become what it is today. The federally funded programs Medicare and Medicaid have provisions for covering long term care services to those who qualify.
Types of Long Term Care Services
Since the conditions which necessitates the requirement of long term care are varied, the types or levels of care is also different being suited to the needs. Which level of care is needed will determine the kind of long term care provider. Basically, the types of care have been categorized into –
- Custodial care
- Intermediate care
- Skilled care
This is the most common kind of long term care needed by patients. This involves the physical support required to carry out the personal everyday activities, like bathing, dressing, using the toilet etc. Medical supervision or monitoring is not a part of this type of care. In many cases, family members or friends help the patient with these activities as the may be living in the same house. There are licensed home health aides who also provide these services. Sometimes, custodial care is available at facilities as well.
Some amount of medical supervision or intervention is required for people who need intermediate long-term care, but not constantly. The care is coordinated with the doctor who is taking care of the main medical issues of the patient. This kind of care includes, physiotherapy, rehabilitation services etc.to help a patient regain his normal functioning. Depending on the level of care needed, intermediate care can be given at home or a specialized facility.
This kind of care is required by more serious patients who need constant medical supervision. The skilled care facilities are not hospitals but are equipped to provide medical assistance to the patients. Skilled nursing facilities provide this kind of care. Care is administered through registered or licensed nurses. This type of care is of a high level and may involve all the three types of care.
Formal and Informal Long-Term Care
If long term care is categorized on the basis of providers, then it can be divided into two broad divisions –
- Formal Long-Term Care
- Informal Long-Term Care
Formal long-term care services are those which are properly organized and systematic, like skilled nursing facilities, adult day care centers, hospice care or assisted living centers. The care givers are paid for their services unless they are providing voluntary service.
Informal Long-Term Care
This has always been the most common type of long-term care since time immemorial. Here care is provided by spouse, family members, adult children, friends or neighbors. There is no payment made in return for the services. It is out of love and compassion that the care giver takes care of the patient not for any monetary gains.
Settings of Long Term Care Services
There are many options of settings available to someone who needs long term care. A patient will always prefer to get the long-term care services at home. Unless his condition demands that he be shifted to a facility, the patient can get care services at home.
So, depending on where the care is provided, long term care can be –
- Home or community-based care
- Facility-based care
Home-based or Community-based Long-Term Care Services
Home-based long-term care services broadly include all kinds of personal assistance and care that is possible to be taken at home.This care is generally given by family members, it can be supplemented by home health aides or registered and licensed nurses, therapists, counsellors, care managers and social workers. Community-based care is given at a common place within the community outside the house. These offer care for a short time, like, when the primary caregiver is unable to carry out his or her duties or the patient wants to stay and socialize with a peer-group.
Adult day center or senior centers are types of facilities which comeunder community-based long-term care services.They provide a safe and comfortable environment with provisions of physical, mental and social support for the elderly. Some community centers offer respite care for the caregivers and offer emotional support to manage the patient properly.
Facility-based Long-Term Care Services
If the condition of the patient requires constant monitoring and supervision, then home care may not be a viable option. There are different types of facilities which provide stay, meals and other assistance to the people staying there. Assisted living facilities, board and care homes are facilities for relatively healthier people who can function on their own to a large extent. Medical or nursing services are not available at these facilities. People can stay within their own private unit or room and lead an independent life.
Skilled nursing homes are for more serious patients who need constant medical care in some form, medicines, injections, therapies etc.Continuing care retirement communities offer different levels of facility-based care within the same compound. Residents can move to the kind of care setting they require as their needs change.
The kind of long-term care service to be chosen will depend upon several factors, like, level of assistance needed, availability of home care givers, affordability etc. With so many types of long-term care services now available, there is a kind suited for every need.
More Useful Links:
Long Term Care Insurance Coverage through Government-Funded Plans