Long Term Care - An Overview

It can be useful to compare long term care to the more familiar medical care.

Medical care is typified by:-

  • Response to acute illness or injury
  • The expectation of a full recovery
  • The application of curative therapies
  • Medication designed to bring back full health
  • The attention of trained personnel under the direction of a doctor
  • Treatment in a hospital, a health centre or a doctor’s office

Long term care is typified by:-

  • Chronic disability and possibly permanent illness or injury
  • Response to the ageing process
  • Being delivered over a relatively long period 
  • Involving maintenance rather than cure
  • Facilitating functionality despite permanent impairment
  • Often being administered by non-medical personnel, family and friends
  • Being given at home or in a care facility

Most dependent care is given in the home by family members or friends. Only about 7% of the population will ever enter into a long term care facility.

What has changed in recent times affecting care giving?



People died younger usually from poor health

People live longer with good health and a high probability of a prolonged period with poor health and dependency.

Institutional care for dependency

Community based care by families, friends and professionals with seniors ‘ageing in place’ in their own homes

Lower life expectancy and a high fertility rate meant plenty of young people to care for older people

Higher life expectancy and declining fertility rates meaning a combined stain on government resources

Families stayed together with an expectation that children would be caregivers

A high divorce rate and lower contact with children who are less likely to be able to give care

Less women in the labor force

More women in the work force and higher demands on them to care for children and parents

Care giving is a complicated and sometimes overwhelming task which can be required, hour upon hour, day after day, year after year.

Subjects that need to be clearly understood include:-

Emergencies; At-home care; Care costs; Government assistance programs; Safe environments for elders; Live-in care giving; Housing options; Choosing a long term care facility; Necessary family documents; Medication problems; Care giving from a distance; Respite care and; End of life wishes.

Long-Term Care (LTC) insurance

This product can be a powerful financial planning tool to avoid becoming a burden on relatives, usually children.  It helps to avoid dependency on government programs and to ensure that the required level of care is received when needed and in a setting of choice. It can also protect assets, ensure financial security and provide peace of mind.

It is generally used by two main groups of people.  The first is those who are worried that their retirement savings may not be sufficient to last their entire lives. They worry also that they may become a burden on their family if they have to endure through a period of dependency and care-giving. They realize without it they may have to accept the base level of government standard care which will become more stretched as boomers age.

The other group is those who have built up substantial means.  Out-living their money is not a concern, rather they want to preserve wealth as a legacy and they realize a lengthy stay in a long term care facility could significantly erode their estate.

It’s clear that LTC insurance is not for everyone. It is a very personalized choice depending on one’s circumstances. 

Long term care planning is becoming an important consideration for many families. It is preferable that people plan for the time when they or their parents might need ongoing care. This way some thought will have been put into what might unfold and the appropriate action can be taken before a crisis occurs.