Long-Term Care Insurance

Learn more about Long-Term Care Insurance.

What is Long-Term Care Insurance?

Source: National Library of Medicine (NLM)

Long-term care involves a variety of services designed to meet a person's health or personal care needs during a short or long period of time. These services help people live as independently and safely as possible when they can no longer perform everyday activities on their own.

Long-term care insurance pays for many types of long-term care. The exact coverage depends on the type of policy you buy and what services are covered. You can purchase nursing home-only coverage or a comprehensive policy that includes both home care and facility care. Many companies sell long-term care insurance. It is a good idea to shop around and compare policies.

Buying long-term care insurance can be a good choice for younger, relatively healthy people at low risk of needing long-term care. Costs go up for people who are older, have health problems, or want more benefits.

Long-term care is provided in different places by different caregivers, depending on a person's needs. Most long-term care is provided at home by unpaid family members and friends. Care can also be provided by paid caregivers, usually at home, but also in a facility such as a nursing home.

The most common type of long-term care is personal care -- help with everyday activities, also called "activities of daily living." These activities include bathing, dressing, grooming, using the toilet, eating, and moving around -- for example, getting out of bed and into a chair.

Long-term care also includes community services such as meals, adult day care, and transportation services. These services may be provided free or for a fee.

Health Drives the Need for Care

People often need long-term care when they have a serious, ongoing health condition or disability. The need for long-term care can arise suddenly, such as after a heart attack or stroke. Most often, however, it develops gradually, as people get older and frailer or as an illness or disability gets worse.

How Long Does Care Last?

Long-term care can last a short time or a long time. Short-term care lasts several weeks or a few months while someone is recovering from a sudden illness or injury. For example, a person may get short-term rehabilitation therapy at a nursing facility after hip surgery, then go home.

Long-term care can be ongoing, as with someone who is severely disabled from a stroke or who has Alzheimer's disease. Many people can remain at home if they have help from family and friends or paid services. But some people move permanently to a nursing home or other type of facility if their needs can no longer be met at home.

About 70 percent of people over age 65 need some type of long-term care during their lifetime. More than 40 percent need care in a nursing home for some period of time.

Who Will Need Long-Term Care?

It is difficult to predict how much or what type of long-term care a person might need. Several things increase the risk of needing long-term care.

Age: The risk generally increases as people get older.

Gender: Women are at higher risk than men, primarily because they often live longer.

Marital status: Single people are more likely than married people to need care from a paid provider.

Lifestyle: Poor diet and exercise habits can increase a person's risk.

Health and family history: These factors also affect risk.