Long-Term Care Facts

April 2011

What caregivers need to know about long-term care, from who provides it to how much it costs.

What is Long-Term Care?

Long-term care refers to a variety of services and support that meet the health and personal care needs of older adults. These services and supports can either be provided in-home or in specific residential facilities. Often long-term care is needed when an individual needs assistance performing everyday Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). ADLs include: bathing, dressing, using the toilet, transferring to or from bed or chair, caring for incontinence and eating.

About 70 percent of individuals over the age of 65 will require at least some type of long-term care services over the course of their lifetime. Over 40 percent will need care in a nursing home for some period of time.

How much care and the type of care will depend on an individual’s particular circumstances. Some may require in-home assistance from a home health aide while others may need 24 hour care from a certified nursing home. The important thing for long-term care decisions is to be prepared—often people do not think about long-term care until a crisis, which can leave little time for planning.

Who Provides Long-term Care?

Caregivers: According to the Family Caregivers Alliance, 44 million people provide unpaid care to loved ones in the United States—accounting for 80 percent of long-term care provided.

Home and Community Based Services (HCBS): HCBS encompass a wide variety of personal support services to help older adults age in their homes and communities. HCBS can include adult day programs, meal services, senior centers, home health aides and case management. For a detailed listing of HCBS services, visit the National Clearinghouse for Long-term Care Information.

Residential Long-term Care Facilities: These are typically what people imagine when discussing long-term care. Facilities can include assisted living, nursing homes, and hospice. The decision to transition from home to a residential long-term care facility can be difficult both emotionally and administratively. It is important to research the different types of long-term care facilities to ensure you are receiving the right amount of care. For a detailed description of residential care options and strategies for approaching the transition, review the Family Caregiver Alliances fact sheet on residential care options.

How Much Does Long-term Care Cost?

Long-term care can be very expensive. According to the National Clearinghouse for Long-term Care Information, one year of nursing home care can cost $68,000 while periodic in-home care from a home health aide could cost almost $18,000 per year. One of the most important reasons to plan in advance for your long-term care is so you can figure out how to pay for it.

One common misconception is that Medicare will pay for long-term care. Medicare will only pay for skilled services and recuperative care on a short-term basis. While some people may qualify for Medicaid, which will cover long-term care costs, most individuals will not. It is important to understand what long-term care costs might entail. For more information on long-term care costs in your community, visit the National Clearinghouse for Long-term Care Information.

Where Can I Go for More Information?

Nine Tips on Finding LGBT-Affirming Services
How to find and assess LGBT-friendly services in your area.

The official U.S. government site for Medicare for more long-term care information as well as a helpful on-line long-term care planning tool.

Eldercare Locator
Visit this site to find aging resources in your area, or call 1-800-677-1116.

The National Long-Term Care Ombudsman Resource Center
This site includes a state by state locator to find local Long-Term Care Ombudsman. Long-Term Care Ombudsman are advocates for residents of nursing homes, board and care homes and assisted living facilities. Ombudsmen provide information about how to find a facility and what to do to get quality care. Under the federal Older Americans Act, every state is required to have an Ombudsman Program that addresses complaints and advocates for improvements in the long-term care system.