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What is a Long Term Care Facility?

Nursing homes are an example of a long term care facility.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 22 June 2014
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A long term care facility may refer to any type of facility that provides extensive care for patients or residents. Long term means that the people who use these facilities are not in them for a short duration. They could require many months or even years of care, and some people might spend most of their lives in one. Some of the things that would be considered a long term care facility including nursing homes, convalescent homes, and homes for the chronically mentally ill.

The needs of those in a long term care facility may be significant. They may require round the clock nursing and assistance with any personal needs like toileting, getting dressed or eating. A person might need the supervision of others if they are not mentally aware or are physically unable to self-support. Even though these facilities may be designed to cater to the patient who may never return to self-supporting behavior, there are plenty of people who don’t stay “long term.” Patients may simply need more help than can be provided in a home environment but less help than would be provided in a hospital. In other words, they’re medically stable but they can’t care for themselves.

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In the best facilities, some staff is on hand to provide patients with opportunities to recover. This could include physical therapists, counselors, occupational therapists and others who might work with patients and their families so the patient is well enough to leave the long term care facility and won’t require 24 hours supervision outside of it. A number of people with severe injuries or with temporary disabilities due to things like stroke might spend some time in a nursing facility while they regain some function. Once they do, they are able to return home.

For others, problems are simply too severe or they are incurable. Those with dementia as caused by Alzheimer’s, for instance, may need to remain in a long term facility if they cannot get the care they need at home. The cost of this type of need is dramatic. To prepare for it, some people have long term care insurance, but others don’t, and the burden of care may first affect the family of the ill individual, and then affect the state which must attempt to pay the costs of several years or more of care.

There is also concern about abuse in these facilities. Though many of them offer superlative care, others clearly don’t, and typically the poorest reimbursed facilities may be least likely to offer good care. When people no longer have resources left to pay for long term care, their choices of where they will go may be severely constrained. The best antidote to this is to use family to visit and provide oversight of patient care, noting and complaining about any lapses that occur.

There are several long term facilities that people may want to investigate. The top rung of these is skilled nursing facilities, which cares for patients with extensive medical problems, but are also most expensive. Intermediate care facilities, sound just as they are. Patients won’t have extreme medical needs, but they can have some need for nursing. Lastly, custodial care facilities are usually for those who need observation and help but don’t need much medical care, and these might be large or small facilities.

The other long term care facility is the family home, where it is cheaper to provide care, and usually better for the person receiving it. Understandably, not everyone is able to provide care at home, but it is usually the one way to assure a patient is getting complete care. People needing to place someone in a facility can do there best by visiting frequently and first getting recommendations from hospital social workers, doctors and the like. However, once funds are reduced, people may not have much choice in what places they can choose for their loved ones, perhaps making long term care insurance to provide greater coverage more attractive.

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