What Are Your Long Term Care Needs?
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High among the list of characteristics to consider when planning your long-term care is your health and health behaviors. Although definitions of long-term care tend to focus on nonmedical needs for assistance, your overall health and any special considerations are clearly important aspects to consider not only on their own but because they will affect many aspects of the nonmedical care you will need.
Here are some questions to ask yourself. Be ruthlessly honest. No one else has to see your list unless you want to share. It is intended to give you a template to think about your healthcare needs and how they would be incorporated into a long-term care plan.
How would you describe your overall health — poor, fair, good, excellent? Has this status changed in the past few years?
Do you have any chronic conditions? (Examples are high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and heart problems.) What are they? Are they under control?
How many doctors do you see regularly? Are your appointments scheduled checkups or as-needed visits? Do these doctors share information with each other and with you?
Do you see any other healthcare professionals — home care nurse, physical therapist, or chiropractor, for example?
Do any of your health conditions limit your ability to function at home or in the community?
Do you use mobility assistive devices of any kind — cane, walker, or wheelchair, for example?
How many prescription medications do you take?
How many over-the-counter (OTC) medications do you take?
Do you have an up-to-date list of all your prescribed and OTC medications?
Does anyone help you with healthcare tasks such as giving injections, monitoring machines like oxygen tanks, or taking care of wounds? If so, who helps?
Have you had your vision and hearing checked in the past year?
Do you need glasses or a hearing aid?
Do you smoke?
Do you drink alcohol or use drugs? How often?
Do you see a dentist regularly?
Do you eat nutritious meals (most of the time)?
Have you fallen in the past year? Were you injured?
Do you have trouble sleeping?
Do you exercise regularly? Or at all?
Do you often feel sad or lonely?
Are you concerned about memory loss?
Do you have clear preferences about the kind of care you would want or not want if you were in a coma after extensive brain damage, or were not expected to recover from an illness?
Have you told anyone about these preferences and documented them in an advance directive?
Do you worry about your health? If you do, what worries you the most?
Even this schematic outline should help you assess your current and potential future needs for healthcare. If you have generally good health and manage your healthcare needs with a minimum of professional involvement, then you should be able to maintain this level of healthcare wherever you are.
There are also options for home-based care. But if you already have serious chronic health conditions that require frequent doctor visits and multiple medications, moving away from your regular source of care may present problems.
For example, a move to assisted living may appeal to you because of the attractive setting, the availability of meals and housekeeping services, and the promised activities. But most assisted-living facilities do not have the capacity to serve the medical care needs of someone with serious chronic conditions, and the location may not be convenient to your usual doctors’ offices.
On the other hand, you may be able to maintain your current healthcare arrangements in an assisted-living facility. It's important to find out.
If you are thinking of moving to a nearby assisted-living facility, where your contact with your regular healthcare providers can be maintained, it is a good idea to let them know of your plans and to ask whether they have any reservations about the idea.
If you are thinking of moving far away, then you can ask for referrals to providers in your new location. But remember that assisted-living facilities do not provide medical care, and you will need to build that into your plan.