Long Term Care for Seniors and People With Disabilities: A Comprehensive Guide

Nicolas Cesare
long term care

A stay at the hospital can be expensive, but many of us are fortunate enough to only have to spend a few days there, if we ever need around-the-clock care. What if you needed continuous medical attention for more than a few days, though? What if you needed a nurse by your side for months or even years? That’s where long term care comes into play. Whether you or someone you love is in need of long term medical care due to illness, a disability, or simply old age, here’s everything that you need to know about long term care facilities.

Table of Contents

What Is Long Term Care?

A long term care facility is a place where someone with ongoing medical and personal needs can stay and have those needs attended to. Although long term care facilities often have a number of well-trained nurses on staff, they don’t just look after a patient’s medical needs. Due to a variety of medical conditions or disabilities, patients may have trouble with routine tasks such as:

  • Moving about
  • Taking care of personal hygiene
  • Getting dressed
  • Preparing and eating food

Long term care facilities are also equipped to monitor and respond to medical needs. They can:

  • Administer medication
  • Monitor a patient’s health over a long period of time
  • Provide or call in emergency care should it be required

How Long Does Long Term Care Normally Last?

The amount of time you might spend in long term care depends on your needs and other opportunities that you have outside of a long term care facility. On average, women spend 3.7 years in long term care facilities and men spend 2.2 years in them. However, these numbers change drastically for those with more needs. Some seniors can expect to spend more than 5 years in a long term care facility and some people with disabilities may receive long term care for most of their lives. This is one of the reasons why retirement costs so much and why you should start saving for retirement early.

How Much Does Long Term Care Cost?

The cost of long term care varies depending on your needs and location. However, there are some national averages to be aware of:

  • Nursing home care costs an average of $8,121 per month for a private room
  • Staying in an assisted living facility costs an average of $3,750 per month

Genworth also has a cost calculator to help you determine the cost of care in the future.

In general, you should expect the cost of your long term care to go up or down depending on factors such as:

  • How much intense medical care is necessary
  • How much time out of the day you need supervision
  • The quality of your accommodations and whether or not they are completely private

Who Needs Long Term Care?

Long term care is typically thought of as a form of retirement housing for seniors. Indeed, while seniors make up a large portion of those who live in long term care facilities and seniors tend to spend more time in such facilities, long term care serves a variety of people with different needs. People who might use a long term care facility include:


  • People With Physical Disabilities — Physical disabilities can make it difficult to perform otherwise routine tasks. Long term care can help a person with a physical disability to live a comfortable life.
  • People With Mental Disabilities — Likewise, a mental disability can interfere with a person’s ability to lead their life. Assisted care can help such a person to keep their life on track and stay safe and comfortable.
  • People With Debilitating Illness — Fighting a serious illness can be a full-time job. A long term care facility such as a nursing home can help a person manage their life for as long as the illness persists and keep them close to medical care in order to monitor and treat their illness.
  • Seniors — Not all seniors have ongoing care needs, but there’s no denying that routine tasks can become more and more difficult as you get older. In old age our muscles don’t always respond as well, our bones don’t always hold as much, and our thoughts can sometimes get away from us. Assisted living in an extended care facility can help us maintain an ordinary life as we age.


Long Term Care Facilities

Long term care come in many shapes and sizes, depending on a patient’s needs. Some patients just need someone to check in on them from time to time, while others may need the attention of a medical professional to frequently monitor their condition or administer treatment.

Home Care

Sometimes long term care can come to you. This is often cheaper than staying in a long term care facility as you’re only paying for the caregiver’s time, rather than paying for room and board on top of that. Home care is ideal if your needs are minimal, as you won’t always have a caregiver or medical professional on hand.

Adult Day Care

Adult day care is a step up from home care. You can expect to receive care at a particular location, but you won’t necessarily stay at that facility full-time. Adult day care is ideal for those whose needs can be satisfied by a friend or family member during the evening and night, such as adult children with disabilities who stay with their working parents.

Assisted Living Facilities

Assisted living is a full-time arrangement for those who need help with day-to-day activities. Usually, assisted living facilities only feature minimal medical aid, so it’s ideal for those who are in otherwise good health, apart from the assistance that they need getting through the day.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes feature all of the full-time assistance of an assisted living facility, but they also provide extensive medical aid. A nursing home is ideal for those who need help administering regular medical treatment and whose condition should constantly be monitored by a medical profession.

Hospice Care

Hospice care is a final resort for people who have an illness that can no longer be treated. A hospice care facility will focus on helping a person stay comfortable throughout the final months of their life.

Long Term Care Insurance

Long term care is not cheap, and there are serious consequences for having unpaid medical bills. Unfortunately, traditional health insurance plans are typically aimed at covering ailments in the short term — they don’t usually cover the cost of a caregiver or a stay in an extended care facility because they costs aren’t always related to medical treatment. This is why long term care insurance exists: to provide insurance coverage for expenses related to long term care.

When to Buy Long Term Care Insurance

Most of us would not pay for any kind of insurance if we didn’t have to. That’s why the law requires some kinds of insurance, and usually for good reason. If you wait to get health insurance until after getting hurt, then you’ll have to pay a hospital bill without insurance, and that can be a nightmare. The same is true for long term care insurance — it’s better to have it before you need it.

Still, you don’t want to get long term care insurance too early either. If you buy long term care insurance in your 20s, and you’re in good health, then you’ll end up paying for a policy that you probably won’t use until after retirement. Instead, aim to buy long term care insurance in your 50s or 60s. If you’re in good health, then you can usually get a discount on your premium, and you will prepared for any potential stays in a long term care facility.

Long Term Care and Medicare

Even if you’re on Medicare, don’t expect long term care to be covered. Medicare only covers costs related to medical treatment and most long term care costs are related to assisted living. So even if you’re on Medicare, it’s still a good idea to buy long term care insurance.

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