How to Plan for Long-Term Care

Many older people are independent. But later in life, you or someone you love may need help with everyday activities like shopping, cooking, and bathing. A variety of services and facilities can provide help that lets people stay active and connected with family, friends, and neighbors.

Planning ahead

The key to successful long-term care is planning. To get started:

  • Talk with your healthcare provider or another healthcare professional if you're having trouble with everyday activities like walking, managing finances, or driving.

  • Learn about the types of services and care in your community by talking to healthcare providers, social workers, family, and friends. The Area Agency on Aging and local and state offices of aging and social services can give you lists of home healthcare providers, adult daycare centers, meal programs, companion services, and transportation services.

  • Learn how much long-term care would cost and how much of the costs Medicare or your insurance plan will pay. You may want to look into long-term care insurance or other plans that can help pay the costs. The Area Agency on Aging and local and state offices of aging and social services may have information to help.

Needing more care

At some point, support from family, friends, and local meal and transportation programs may not be enough. If you need a lot of help with everyday activities, you may need to move to a place where care is available 24-hours a day. These are 2 types of residential-care facilities:

  • Assisted-living communities. These offer different levels of care that often include meals, recreation, security, and help with bathing, dressing, and housekeeping. Residents often have their own rooms or apartments as part of a larger community. These could also include continuing care retirement communities. They have several different levels of care that residents can move through. 

  • Nursing homes, or skilled-nursing facilities. They give round-the-clock service and supervision, medical care, and rehabilitation for residents who are mostly frail, very ill, or suffer from dementia.

Finding the right place

To find long-term care for yourself or someone else:

  • Ask questions. Your state's office of the long-term care ombudsman can give information about specific nursing homes.

  • Call around. Contact places that interest you and ask questions about vacancies, number of residents, costs, and payment methods. You should also ask about services that may be important to you like special units for people with Alzheimer's disease.

  • Visit the facilities. When you find a place that sounds right, go and talk to the staff, residents, and residents' family members. Check out the facility for cleanliness and safety. Watch the way the staff treats residents.

For more information, visit the National Institute on Aging, the Eldercare Locator, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.