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Long Term Care

Long Term Care

Long-term care is the broad range of personal, social, and medical services that assist people who have functional or cognitive limitations in their ability to perform self-care and other activities. With the growth of our older population, long-term care has become a major component of the United States health-care system. These services are provided in a multitude of locations, including private homes, adult day-care settings, residential care/assisted living facilities, and nursing homes.

This article focuses on those last two settings, both of which constitute residential long-term care. In 2005, there were approximately 17 000 nursing homes in the United States, with 1.9 million beds, serving 1.6 million persons. Almost one-half of the nation’s population aged 65 and older will spend at least some time in a nursing home, and in many states, nursing home care consumes over 50% of the Medicaid budget. Furthermore, nursing homes are only a portion of the residential long-term care system; nationwide, residential care/assisted living facilities have proliferated since the 1990s, to the point that the number of beds in these residences rivals that in nursing homes. In 2005 there were approximately 36 000 residential care/assisted living facilities in the United States, housing as many as 1 million older adults.