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Planning for Long-Term Care

A couple sitting on a couch sips tea while listening attentively to a healthcare professional seated in a chair across from them

It can be difficult to predict how much or what type of long-term care you or your loved one may require. However, several factors, including chronic conditions such as dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, can increase the likelihood of needing long-term care.[i]

Long-Term Care Planning Month in October encourages seniors — as well as those caring for or acting on behalf of older patients — to examine their potential need for these services and explore the options that are available to them.[ii] In observance of Long-Term Care Planning Month, consider the following.

What is long-term care?

According to the National Institute on Aging, long-term care involves a variety of services designed to meet an individual’s health or personal care needs. Long-term care services help people live as independently and safely as possible when they can no longer perform routine activities such as bathing, dressing, grooming, using the toilet, taking medications, and eating on their own.

Who needs long-term care?

Recent research from the U.S. Department of Health and Senior Services suggests most Americans above the age of 65 will require long-term care services at some point in their lives.[iii] Those who are older, have a disability, or live alone are more likely to need long-term care. Chronic conditions such as dysphagia also increase a person’s chances of requiring long-term care, as the inability to swallow safely can result in complications including malnutrition, dehydration, and aspiration of food or liquid into the lungs.[iv] In fact, 40 to 60 percent of patients residing in assisted living and skilled nursing communities are reported to have dysphagia.[v]

What are some of the different types of long-term care services?

Most long-term care is in the residence of the person requiring the services or in a family member’s home by unpaid relatives, friends, or neighbors. Depending on your or your loved one’s needs and preferences, however, long-term care services can be provided by different types of caregivers in multiple places, including:

  • Facility-based programs. These include nursing homes that provide a comprehensive range of services as well as assisted living, board and care homes, and continuing care retirement communities.[vi]
  • Home healthcare. This type of care includes part-time medical services that are ordered by a physician for a specific condition. Home healthcare may involve physical, occupational, or speech therapy.
  • Homemaker and personal care services. These can be purchased from home health agencies without a physician’s order and often include assistance with household chores and meal preparation as well as bathing and grooming.
  • Friendly visitor and senior companion services. Volunteers regularly visit those who are frail or living alone for short periods of time.
  • Senior transportation services. Transportation allows older adults to maintain their independence by keeping them connected to important places such as grocery stores and doctor’s offices.[vii]
  • Emergency medical alert services. This type of service can be especially useful for individuals who live alone or are at risk of falling with electronic monitors that instantly respond to medical or other emergencies.

How much does long-term care cost?

The cost of long-term care varies depending on the type and duration of care you need, the provider you use, and where you live. Although some people may qualify for public programs such as Medicare and Medicaid to help pay for some long-term care services, most use a variety of options, including long-term care insurance, personal income and savings, life insurance, annuities, and reverse mortgages.

While no one can know for certain if or when they will need long-term care, planning gives you time to explore services in your community and determine what they will cost. Learn more about planning for long-term care from the National Institute on Aging.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have about the use of Thick-It® products. The information contained herein is general and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment in any manner.

[i] “What Is Long-Term Care?” National Institute on Aging, May 1, 2017.
[ii] “Long Term Care Planning Month – October.” National Day Calendar.
[iii] Dey, Favreault, “Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Americans: Risks and Financing Research Brief.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, February 2016.
[iv] “What causes difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)?” Medical News Today, December 21, 2017.
[v] Wikum, Kristy, “When your resident cannot swallow.” McKnight’s Long-Term Care News, October 12, 2018.
[vi] “Find your path forward.” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
[vii] “Eldercare Locator.” Administration for Community Living.

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