Money & Policy

Who Needs Long-Term Care?

Most people over 65 will need long-term care at some point

Long-term care is not medical care.

Long-term care helps people manage everyday needs such as bathing, getting dressed, using the bathroom and eating.

This type of care is offered at assisted living facilities and nursing homes, but a growing number of people receive long-term care in their own home.

About 70 percent of people over age 65 will require some type of long-term care services during their lifetime. More than 40 percent will need care in a nursing home. Things that increase your risk or make it more likely that you’ll need long-term care include:

  • Age: The older you get, the more likely it is that you’ll need help.
  • Living alone: If you live alone, you’re more likely to need paid care than if you’re married or single and living with a partner.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to need long-term care than men, primarily because women tend to live longer.
  • Lifestyle: Poor diet and exercise habits increase the chance that you’ll need long-term care.
  • Personal history: Health and family history can increase the chances you’ll need long-term care.

Service and support needs vary from person to person and often change over time.

  • On average, someone who is 65 today will need some type of long-term care services and supports for three years.
  • Women need care longer (on average 3.7 years) than men (on average 2.2 years), mostly because women usually live longer.
  • While about one-third of today’s 65-year-olds may never need long-term care services and supports, 20 percent will need care for longer than 5 years.

If you need long-term care services and supports, you may receive or use one or more of the following:

  • Assistance with personal care or other activities from an unpaid caregiver who may be a family member or friend.
  • Services in your home from a nurse, home health or home care aide, therapist, or homemaker.
  • Services in the community such as adult day services.
  • Care in any of a variety of long-term care facilities.

The table below shows that, overall, more people use long-term care services at home than in facilities. Also, people use long-term care services longer at home than in facilities.

Type of care Average years used % of people using this
Any Services 3 years 69
At Home    
Unpaid care only 1 year 59
Paid care Less than 1 year 42
In Facilities    
Nursing facilities 1 year 35
Assisted living Less than 1 year 13
Any care in facilities 1 year 37

Based on articles from the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information, Department of Health and Human Services. 

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