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What Is Long-Term Care?

Find out how to provide long-term care to someone who's ill or disabled

By Department of Health and Human Services | May 23, 2012

Long-term care decribes a range of services and supports someone may need to meet his or her health or personal needs over a long period of time.

Most long-term care is not medical care, but rather assistance with the basic personal tasks of everyday life, sometimes called “activities of daily living,” such as:

  •     Bathing
  •     Dressing
  •     Using the toilet
  •     Transferring to or from a bed or chair
  •     Caring for incontinence
  •     Eating

Other common long-term care services and supports are assistance to complete what is called "instrumental activities of daily living." These are routine household tasks and errands such as:
  •     Housework
  •     Preparing and cleaning up after meals
  •     Taking medication
  •     Shopping for groceries or clothes
  •     Using the telephone or other communication devices
  •     Managing money
  •     Caring for pets
  •     Responding to emergency alerts such as fire alarms

You need long-term care when you are not able to complete personal care or other daily activities on your own. This is most often the result of a chronic illness or disability. In some cases, the illness or disability may include memory loss, confusion, or disorientation, sometimes called cognitive impairment. This can be the result of conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

In 2008, 21 million people had a condition that caused them to need help with their health and personal care. Half of them were more than 65 years old.

Based on articles from the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information.