What Is a Long-Term Care Facility?
There are a few types of long-term care facilities. Each offers a different level of care and most provide highly skilled medical services. The facility you choose will depend on your means, your needs and your preferences. If you need ongoing care, it’s important to understand where to find them, what to look for in one and how to make the transition.
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Daniel J. Adams, MBA, CFP®, CLU®
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- Published: September 27, 2023
- Updated: October 25, 2023
- 8 min read time
- This page features 10 Cited Research Articles
- Edited By
- A long-term care facility provides ongoing care to residents who need it due to their physical condition and medical ailments.
- Long-term care facilities include nursing homes, assisted living facilities and skilled nursing centers.
- It’s wise to consult with an industry professional to help you decide on a long-term facility that best fits your needs and budget.
What Is the Purpose of a Long-Term Care Facility
The purpose of a long-term care facility is to help those who need ongoing care. They include nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities. These facilities provide care for individuals who need medical help 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Most commonly, the term “long-term care” is used when the care is required for more than 12 months.
Typically, these facilities cater to people with chronic illness or an ailment that requires medical professionals to be available at all times. They ease the burden of care for family members and other loved ones who may not have the time to provide the level of care you need.
Even when people are lucky to have such help, it is often being provided by unlicensed individuals with a good heart but minimal medical knowledge. At a certain point, a professional with a higher level of skill is necessary. This is where long-term care facilities come into play.
I visited my grandma for years while she was living in a long-term care facility. During that time, I was able to see firsthand the quality of life and care that she was given and gained an understanding of the importance of having access to such a facility. If you or a loved one may need to move into a long-term care facility of some kind, it is extremely important to research the available options and make sure that the facility and staff will make you feel comfortable, confident and have your best interests at heart.
Types of Long-Term Care Facilities
There are several types of long-term care facilities, each fulfilling a different level of care. Determine what level of care is right for you before deciding what type of facility to research.
- Nursing Homes
- According to United Health Care, a nursing home is where registered nurses supervise other nurses in assisting residents with activities of daily living. Activities of daily living, also known as ADLS, are defined as bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, continence and feeding. If accessing long-term care insurance through life insurance riders, it normally takes two or more ADLs to trigger the qualification for payments.
- Assisted Living Facilities
- According to Forbes, assisted living communities provide a home-like setting and provide nonmedical assistance with ADLs. These types of facilities typically have common areas, as well as many other amenities for the benefit of the residents.
- Skilled Nursing Facility
- A skilled nursing facility provides transitional care. They assist with recovery and rehabilitation from illnesses or injuries. Patients commonly use skilled nursing facilities after being transferred from a hospital. The services are provided by registered nurses under a doctor’s supervision and are less permanent than the facilities listed above.
- Memory Care Units
- Memory care units are facilities dedicated to individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
What Services Are Offered in Long-Term Care Facilities?
Each resident of a long-term care facility will have different needs. This drives their decision in choosing the form of care they should choose, as long-term care facility types can vary. Whether it’s a nursing home, assisted living facility, skilled nursing facility or other institution, make sure the level of care you need will be provided.
A lot of institutions, facilities and communities are available to choose from. As the baby boomer generation ages, the demand for long-term care has grown, and the industry is growing to fulfill that need.
Long-term care facilities provide a few common services, but each community and facility will have their own selection of services.
- Assistance With Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)
- Help with bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, continence and feeding.
- Medical Care
- Professional physician and nursing services needed to regulate health. Tailored to the individual.
- Rehabilitation Services
- Help restoring impaired skills or functions.
- Social and Recreational Activities
- Events and activities for the residents to participate in.
- Nutritional Support
- Professional support that meets the nutritional needs of the residents.
- 24/7 Supervision and Security
- Personal and property protection for the residents. This is a large and important part of senior residential care.
- Emotional and Psychosocial Support
- Professional physician and nursing services needed to support mental health.
Who Is a Long-Term Care Facility Best Suited For?
Long-term care facilities are best suited for those individuals who medically qualify and don’t have the help they need from their circle of friends and family. Most residents are seniors with physical conditions that require ongoing care.
Mental disabilities, cognitive disabilities or chronic conditions could trigger interest in a long-term care facility solution. Long-term care encompasses a well-rounded suite of services for those in need. Anyone in need of respite care or rehabilitation would benefit from researching these facilities.
How To Find a Long-Term Care Facility
There are several things to prioritize when choosing a long-term care facility. While everyone has unique requirements, it would be wise to consider some specific points. Carefully assess what services are required and which are just preferred. Consult with industry professionals and schedule appointments to discuss your concerns. Don’t hesitate to bring your loved ones with you for appointments and visits. Their input can aid your decision-making process.
When choosing a facility, remember to take a holistic view of each. While the level of care is essential, you should also consider the security and social activities, as they will encompass the residents’ daily experiences. Budgetary concerns also play a factor, as few people have unlimited funds. The goal is to get the most appropriate care for your money.
While assessing staff credentials and budgetary concerns are priorities, your gut feeling can also tell you a lot.
Consider Your Needs
It’s important to carefully assess your needs when thinking about a long-term care facility. Consult with your primary care physician, your loved ones and any other specialists you interact with regularly. They may even have recommendations for you.
Have your doctors explicitly describe your medical conditions and needs, as it will be easy to overlook some important facts during your facility visits. This can be a daunting process, so it helps to have all your information laid out and on hand.
How To Evaluate a Facility
Whenever you visit a facility, make sure to bring the documentation mentioned above. Have the facility representative review them and confirm whether the facility will be a good fit for your needs. You’ll want them to confirm whether they have the proper professionals, level of care and specialized services. Some institutions will not be equipped for people who are diagnosed with specific diseases, like dementia.
Transportation, meals and availability of professionals will also be important considerations. According to Medicare.gov, it is important to ask how many residents each certified nursing assistant (CNA) has assigned to them at any given time. The fewer residents assigned to a CNA at once, the more time they will have available for you. Medicare.gov also recommends asking if therapy is available at the facility.
- Call your state health department. They likely have information about facilities in your area.
- Call your state licensing agency. They should be able to give you the latest complaint investigation reports.
- Review available online information.
While your physical needs are the top priority, social activities are still important. Ask the facility if they help you participate in religious or cultural activities you may want to take part in.
The most important thing is to visit the facility in person. Direct experience is always better than a secondhand recommendation.
Transitioning Into a Long-Term Care Facility
In order to facilitate a smooth transition, it’s important to gather all required information before beginning the move. You will need your insurance information, current medical history and a copy of all advanced directives, if applicable, such as a living will or a power of attorney.
The healthier your expectations, the smoother your transition will be. Moving requires preparation on both sides, so there will always be a period of adjustment. Nursing homes, for example, will need about two weeks to develop an assessment and care plan. This will include types of services needed, which staff member will complete each service, supplies and equipment needed, activity preferences and more.
Also, be sure to understand the nuances of your new circumstances. Don’t overlook the financing of your stay, visiting rules, general cleanliness and unit choice as you transition into your new facility.
Frequently Asked Questions About Long-Term Care Facilities
Editor Bianca Dagostino contributed to this article.
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10 Cited Research Articles
- D. Hipp (2023, July 25). What is Assisted Living? Benefits, Requirements and Costs. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/health/senior-living/what-is-assisted-living/
- A Senior Living Resource. (2023, May 9). How Much Does Assisted Living Cost? Retrieved from https://www.whereyoulivematters.org/how-much-does-assisted-living-cost/
- R. Correll (2023, Feb. 16). Activities of Daily Living: What Are They and How Are They Used? Retrieved from https://www.care.com/c/activities-of-daily-living/
- U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2023) Nursing Home Affiliated Entity Performance Measures. Retrieved from https://data.cms.gov/quality-of-care/nursing-home-affiliated-entity-performance-measures/data
- U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2023) PQDC. Retrieved from https://data.cms.gov/provider-data/topics/nursing-homes
- U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2023) Find & Compare Providers Near You. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/care-compare/?redirect=true&providerType=NursingHome
- United Health Care. (2023). What’s the Difference Between a Skilled Nursing Facility and a Nursing Home? Retrieved from https://www.uhc.com/news-articles/medicare-articles/whats-the-difference-between-a-skilled-nursing-facility-and-a-nursing-home
- Genworth. (2022, June 6). Cost of Care Survey. Retrieved from https://www.genworth.com/aging-and-you/finances/cost-of-care.html
- L. Woodruff. (2021, Sept. 14). Choosing the Right Long-Term Care Facility. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/basics/info-2021/choosing-long-term-care-facility.html
- U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (n.d). Your Guide To Choosing a Nursing Home or Other Long-Term Services & Supports. Retrieved from https://www.medicare.gov/care-compare/en/assets/resources/nursing-home/02174-nursing-home-other-long-term-services.pdf