Trends in Long-Term Care and Associated Implications

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Long-term care (LTC) covers a wide range of clinical and social services for those who need assistance due to functional limitations. These limitations usually result from complications associated with age related chronic conditions, from disabilities related to birth defects, brain damage, or mental retardation in children; or from major illnesses or injuries suffered by adults (Shi L. & Singh D.A., 2011). LTC encompasses a variety of services including traditional clinical services, social services and housing. Unlike acute care, long-term care is much more complicated and has objectives that are much harder to measure. Acute care mainly focuses on returning patients to their previous functional level and is primarily provided by specialty providers. However, LTC mainly focuses on preventing the physical and mental deterioration of an individual and promoting social adjustments to suit the different stages of decline. In addition the providers of LTC are more diverse than those in acute care and is offered in both formal and informal settings, which include: hospitals, physicians, home care, adult day care, nursing home care, assisted living and even informal caregivers such as friends and family members. Long-term care services have been dominated by community based services, which include informal care (86%, about 10 to 11 million) and formal institutional care delivered in nursing facilities (14%, 1.6 million) (McCall, 2001). Of more than the 10 million Americans estimated to require LTC services, 58% are elderly and 42% are under the age of 65 (Shi L. & Singh D.A., 2011). The users of LTC are either frail elderly or disabled and because of the specific care needs of this population, the care varies based on an indiv...

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