The Long-Term Care Decision

By J. Alex Greenwood Heartland Care Group | THE JOURNAL RECORD, May 31, 2000 | Go to article overview
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The Long-Term Care Decision

J. Alex Greenwood Heartland Care Group, THE JOURNAL RECORD

As we age, the realities of proper medical care and quality of life become paramount. However, the many options available to senior citizens can be confusing and even misleading.

The first things to consider are the needs of the person considering a long-term care decision. Seniors in good physical and mental health will usually opt to stay in their homes or join an independent living community, which offers a "neighborhood" of seniors and activities geared towards that age group. Assistance with minor tasks such as laundry and shopping are also often offered.

Assisted living is a form of non-medical senior housing for folks who need help with only a small number of tasks, such as cooking and laundry. Some residents take advantage of reminders to take their medications and meals. However, most assisted living residents still live independently within the assisted living complex. In most cases, assisted living residents pay a regular monthly rent and additional fees for the services they use.

Other options available include board and care homes, which are group living arrangements that are designed to meet the needs of people who cannot live independently, but do not require long term care services. Continuing care retirement communities (CCRC's) are housing communities that provide different levels of care based on the needs of their residents -- from independent living apartments to skilled nursing in an affiliated nursing home. Residents move from one setting to another based on their needs, but continue to remain a part of the CCRC's community.

However, when a senior's health and well being require 24-hour nursing care and professional supervision, the long-term care center (also known as "nursing home") is the best option.

A long-term care center provides room, meals, recreational activities, help with daily living, and protective supervision to residents. Generally, long-term care center residents have physical or mental impairments which keep them from living independently. Nursing homes are certified to provide different levels of care, from intermediate to skilled nursing (services which can only be administered by a trained professional).

Long-term care differs from acute care, which is offered in most hospitals. Acute care is intended to help the patient get better, stabilized, and ready to move to a long-term care center. The long- term center helps people with chronic, degenerative illnesses or disabilities who require continued medical support over a long period of time.

Many families understandably wish to keep their loved one home and provide care for that person themselves. However, they should be prepared for the exhausting realities of caring for chronically or mentally ill loved ones.

Your doctor or social worker can advise you of the most realistic and appropriate setting for you or your loved one.

Paying for independent living, assisted living or long-term care can be daunting. Independent living and CCRCs often require a large payment prior to admission, then charge monthly fees above that cost. This is financially out of reach for many seniors.

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