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Types of Long-Term Care

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What is "Long-Term Care"

Long Term Care

Long-term care, often abbreviated as LTC, is assistance provided to seniors who are no longer able to perform activities of daily living on their own. Activities of daily living (or ADLs) are daily tasks such as:


  • Bathing

  • Dressing

  • Grooming

  • Toileting

  • Ambulating (or walking/transferring on one’s own)


When an individual is no longer able to accomplish ADLs on their own without assistance, due to physical or cognitive incapacitation, an individual will require long-term care.


Medicaid’s definition of long-term care is the need for assistance due to ongoing or chronic illnesses or disabilities and require care that is equivalent to that of a nursing facility. Each state has their own definition as to what is considered to be nursing facility-level care, so the criteria ranges state by state.


Several states now offer assistance with personal care through their state Medicaid programs, so care requirements can be more lenient. Even though long-term care is typically non-medical, it does assist individuals with health-related issues as well.


Services and care assistance that comprise long-term care, and the settings in which it is provided, cover a wide range of options.


Home Care


Since aging at home is a preference for many senior citizens, at-home care is an increasingly popular form of long-term care.


This type of care provides a variety of in-home services and support in an effort to help seniors be as independent as possible. Personal care assistance is provided mostly by home health aides or personal care attendants, and includes activities such as bathing, dressing, brushing teeth, toileting, hair care and shaving, feeding, transferring throughout the house or from a seated to a standing position. They may also assist with other daily tasks, called instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) such as laundry, meal preparation, shopping, medication management, errands, and non-medical transportation.


For those who require in-home medical care, qualified professionals may come to check vitals, provide wound care, and administer medications or injections.

Finally, Personal Emergency Response Systems are also considered to be a form of long-term care. These medical alerts allow seniors to continue living independently but monitor them in the event of an emergency such as a fall so that the senior may call for help. Some systems are advanced enough to detect falls, and automatically call for help with no action required by the senior. Those who live with dementia or Alzheimer's and have wandering tendencies might benefit from medical systems with advanced tracking systems that can monitor their location.


Adult Day Care

The purpose of adult day care, sometimes referred to as adult day health care, is to provide supervision, meals, snacks, as well as therapeutic and recreational activities during daytime hours in a community setting. Other types of care, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapy, may also be available, and some facilities also provide Alzheimer's and dementia care. Adult day care is most appropriate for families who need respite from caregiving duties due to work, family, or social commitments.



Assisted Living


Assisted living provides a form of residential care for seniors who are unable to live alone, but whose care needs are not quite advanced enough yet for a nursing home. Assisted living facilities provide room and board for residence, supervision at all times of the day and night, assistance with personal care (bathing, dressing, grooming), recreational activities, medication management, laundry and housekeeping, as well as transportation services. Assisted living is best suited for elderly individuals who have physical limitations, or for those who have early-to-mid state cognitive impairment due to dementia.



Memory Care


A memory care facility, also called Alzheimer's care or Alzheimer's units, is specifically designed for people suffering from Alzheimer's or another form of dementia. Assistive living and nursing homes often provide memory care units, but some memory care facilities operate independently. Since memory care facilities exclusively care for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients, the buildings are designed specifically for the safety of cognitively impaired patients. Since many memory care patients wander, many facilities are designed to allow patients to wander safely, with staff who are specially trained to handle the care needs and behavior of dementia or Alzheimer’s patients. Memory care facilities often have heightened security measures, more supervision, and specially trained staff members. Memory care patients have access to 24/7 care and is considered to be a long-term care solution.


Nursing Home


The level of care provided in nursing homes, also called skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), is higher than that of an assisted living facility. The only facility that can provide a higher level of care than a skilled nursing facility is a hospital. SNFs provide 24-hour supervision, room and board, medical care, personal care, medication management, rehabilitation therapies, and recreational activities.


Those who visit a SNF for rehabilitation after an illness or injury are not considered to be long-term care cases. These patients will visit the facility with the intent of rehabilitation and discharge, while other patients will require ongoing care, potentially for the rest of their life.

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