Long-term health care, most commonly referred to as long-term care (LTC) is comprised of both medical and non-medical services provided to those who are unable to take care of themselves. Although LTC is most commonly used by the elderly, long term care may also be necessary for people of any age who are either chronically ill or disabled. Many have trouble dressing and bathing themselves, need assistance to use the bathroom or require help preparing regular meals. And with an aging population, LTC is becoming an increasingly important issue.

In 2006, the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that 6 million Americans needed the assistance of LTC services. This number is expected to increase to 12 million by 2020. According to a study performed by the US Department of Health and Human Services, 40 percent of the population who reach 65 years of age will enter a nursing home at some point in their lives.

There is a wide range of both in-home and out-of-home care services, depending on your particular needs and your budget. They include the following:

The cost of LTC is not insignificant, and many people are under the mistaken impression that Medicare will pay their LTC costs. In fact, Medicare only pays for short-term skilled services or rehabilitative care that is medically necessary. It does not pay for care in the long-term or for help with activities of daily living, which is what the majority of people actually need. To pay for this, you will likely need a private payment plan such as a reverse mortgage or special long-term care insurance. However, this is not something that can be arranged for at the last minute, so the ability to pay for LTC does require advance planning.

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