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Choosing long-term care

Long-term care is defined as helping people of any age with their medical needs or daily activities over a long period of time.

Long-term care can be provided at home, in the community, or in various types of facilities. This section discusses the long-term care needs for older people. However, the information also may be useful for younger people with disabilities or illnesses that require long-term care.

When looking for long-term care, it is important to remember that quality varies from one place, or caregiver, to another. Making long-term care decisions can be hard even when planned well in advance.

Check for quality

Look for long-term care which:

  • Is funded by government institutions
  • Has the services you need
  • Has the staff to meet your needs
  • Meets your budget

Research shows that to make the best choices, you need to think about:

  • What your options are
  • Whether they meet the needs of you or the person you care for - physical, medical, emotional, and financial
  • How to find the highest quality care

Types of long-term care

Research shows that many people do not know about or understand long-term care options. The following are descriptions of the major types of long-term care available in the UK:

  • Home-care: This type of care ranges from domestic to medical care. It can be given in your own home by family members, friends, volunteers, and paid professionals. The NHS provides some care if the need is health-related rather than social. Social services can provide some long-term care, but there are rules that determine what financial contribution you have to make. Organisations such as Marie Curie Cancer Care provide home-care to those who are terminally ill - this is available through your district nurse or GP.
  • Day care centres: A carer’s assessment will determine the needs of the person you care for and it may state that day centre care is part of the support that they are entitled to. You local authority will be able to provide you with details of which community day care centres are available to you and the person you care for.
  • Community services: These are support services that can include adult day care, home meal services, transportation and respite care. These can help people who are cared for at home and their families. For example, adult day care services provide a variety of health, social and related support services in a protective environment during the day. This can help adults with conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, to continue to live within the community, and it can give carers a well-needed break from their duties.
  • Supported housing: Your local authority will be able to tell you what types of supported or sheltered housing are available in your area. This may mean the person you care for may not take residence in a care home. Sheltered accommodation has a scheme manager or warden living on the premises who can be contacted through an alarm system if necessary. Some sheltered accommodation has been designed for disabled people and may have specialised facilities and specially trained staff to provide support.
  • Care homes: These differ in type as some care homes offer full-time nursing care while others support people with a specific disability or medical need. Social services will be able to assess what kind of care home the person you care for needs and may be able to make recommendations on local facilities. Residential care homes provide skilled nursing care, rehabilitation services, meals, activities and personal care.
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