Understanding Geriatric Services and Long-Term Care

Geriatrics is the term used to describe medical care for elderly adults. As people age, it is important to put plans in place to assist with their long-term needs, help enhance their quality of life, and ensure they can maintain their independence for as long as possible.

Geriatric care includes both medical and personal care services. Common medical care for elderly individuals includes physical therapy, occupational therapy, dialysis, and IV therapy. Personal care, meanwhile, includes help with driving and using the restroom, social care, meal planning, and fall prevention measures. It is important to start thinking about geriatric care before an emergency incident occurs. Geriatric care planning usually begins when an elderly person demonstrates a need for frequent assistance throughout the day.

It can be helpful to work with a geriatric care manager when putting together a long-term care plan that is both practical and sustainable. Geriatric care managers are typically licensed nurses or social workers who work alongside their elderly patients to identify the services they need and find resources to support them. Geriatric care managers are very involved in the long-term care plan process, often checking in and providing support to their patients, personally selecting care personnel, and coordinating their medical services. Geriatric care managers can be especially helpful if other family members live too far away to care for their aging relatives.

A report by the Home Care Association of America and Global Coalition on Aging found that nine out of 10 Americans 65 and older want to remain in their homes for as long as possible, so home care should be considered for seniors who do not need the 24-hour medical assistance of a nursing home. Home care allows caregivers to visit elderly individuals at home in order to assist with their day-to-day needs. There are many benefits to home care for an aging adult, such as the comfort of remaining in a familiar setting, the ability to maintain any social connections they may have in the neighborhood, and the ability to continue to care for their pets. Home care can also reduce chances of exposure to bacteria and illnesses often found in hospitals and nursing homes.

It is never too early to start planning for long-term care. Many people who do not put plans into place for geriatric services can end up putting a financial burden or difficult planning decisions on their family members when they reach old age. Fortunately, there are many options for people to start planning for geriatric care before they are old enough to need it. It is important for people to think about the type of care they might want in advance, in order to pick the best savings plan. Traditional long-term care insurance may be able to cover some of the costs of a nursing home. Meanwhile, for a lower cost, new hybrid insurance policies can offer a choice of a life insurance benefit or long-term care coverage. Another option is to put money aside as part of retirement planning. Medicaid provides coverage for some services and offers a program called Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), which can help pay for home care.

A registered nurse in Tampa, Florida, Heather Falton earned an associate of arts in nursing from Keiser University.