What is Long-Term Care?

In general, the phrase "long-term care" refers to a broad range of services you may need for an extended period of time because of a chronic illness or disability. It usually does not include the type of care you receive on a short-term basis following a hospitalization or an acute illness.

Long-term care includes medical services such as nursing care or therapies. It also includes supportive services, such as help in bathing, dressing, getting in and out of bed, taking medicines, or preparing meals. Long-term care can be provided in a variety of settings, including nursing homes, your home, an adult day care center, or a group living arrangement with supportive services. Community-based long-term care (provided outside of nursing homes) is often given by family and friends, but can also be provided by paid individuals or agencies, some of which are licensed by the state and/or certified by public funding programs like Medicare.

Nursing Home Care

Care in a nursing home includes several different levels of care:

Skilled Nursing Care is care for medical conditions furnished on a physician's order that requires the skills of professional personnel such as a registered nurse or a licensed practical nurse and is provided either directly by or under the supervision of these personnel.

Intermediate Nursing Care is basic care including physical, emotional, social, and other restorative services given under periodic medical supervision. This nursing care requires the skill of a registered nurse in administration, including observation and recording of reactions and symptoms, and supervision of nursing care.

Personal or Custodial Care is care that can be performed by persons without medical training and that is primarily for the purpose of meeting the personal needs of the patient, including feeding and personal hygiene.

Community-based Long-Term Care

Community-based long-term care can be provided in many settings and by many kinds of providers. If you are receiving several services from different providers, a professional case manager may be involved in arranging for and managing the services. A few of the specific kinds of services and agencies that provide community-based long-term care are:

Home Health Care includes:

  • Skilled nursing services, such as providing therapy treatments or administering medication;
  • Home health aide services, such as checking temperature and blood pressure;
  • Personal care, such as help with bathing, dressing, walking, and exercise; and
  • Physical, occupational, respiratory, or speech therapy.

Assisted Living Facility Care is care given in a residential facility and includes supportive, personal, or nursing services. Supportive services may involve assistance with meals, housekeeping, laundry, and arranging for transportation. Personal services means direct, hands-on help with activities of daily living.

Adult Day Care is care given in a nonresidential, community-based group program designed to meet the needs of functionally impaired adults. It is a structured, comprehensive program that may provide a variety of health, social, and related support services during any part of a day.

Respite Care is the provision of personal care, supervision, or other services to a functionally impaired person in order to temporarily relieve a family member or other primary caregiver from caregiving duties. Respite care services are usually provided in the impaired person's home or in another home or homelike setting, but may also be provided in a nursing home.

Hospice Care is a specifically designed package of social and medical services that primarily provides pain relief, symptom management, and supportive services to terminally ill people and their families.