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Long Term Care

Long-term care includes both personal care and community services. Patients will need help with everyday activities, also called "activities of daily living" (or ADLs), such as bathing, dressing, grooming, using the toilet, eating, and moving around—for example, getting out of bed and into a chair. Social services like nutritional counseling, meal programs, adult day care, and transportation, can play key roles in the lives of people needing long-term care.

Long-term care is often necessary for people with serious, ongoing health conditions or disabilities. Long-term care can become necessary as the result of an acute condition, such as a heart attack or stroke, or a need for long-term assistance can develop gradually over time as people age and become more frail or as an illness gets worse.

A long-term care nurse cares for the same group of patients every day for an extended period of time. They minister to their patients' daily needs, and they are frequently sources of support, guidance and comfort for patients and family members. They give advice on dealing with disability or provide a shoulder to cry on during difficult times.

Patients in long-term care often become attached to nurses who show them compassion and care. It is important to keep in mind that these patients experience high mortality rates due to the serious nature of their illnesses or injuries. Long-term care nurses must be emotionally mature and able to cope with the death of patients with whom they become close.

The number of positions for long-term care nurses is expected to increase dramatically over the next decade. This is a growing area of nursing professionals with a career that is both steady and rewarding.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a long-term nurse do?
Long-term care nurses focus on providing care to patients who need extended care. Some patients are those suffering from debilitating injuries and illnesses, such as AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. These nursing professionals also care for elderly patients who need regular medical care or may be unable to care for themselves any longer.

Long-term nurses generally focus on medical care for their patients. They may monitor vital signs and administer medications. Long-term nurses may also perform other therapeutic and treatment procedures, such as massages and range-of-motion exercises.

In addition to administering medical care, these nurses may be responsible for assisting their patients with everyday tasks such as eating, bathing, toileting and dressing.

Nursing professionals play an essential role in providing long-term care for patients and their loved ones. In addition to medical and personal care, they may provide insight on dealing with a disability or give family members emotional support during challenging times.

Is long-term care nursing stressful?
Long-term care nursing staff report high levels of burnout, so it is safe to say this is a stressful field. Research on nurses at long-term care facilities indicate the demands of the job, when added to personal stress, can lead to emotional exhaustion and lower feelings of personal accomplishment. However, long-term care nurses who felt supported by supervisors, friends and family, and who had opportunities for nurturing, fared better. They felt less emotionally taxed and reported higher levels of personal accomplishment..

What is the difference between skilled nursing and long-term care?
As nursing care has changed, so have the settings in which it is administered. Today, most skilled nursing facilities are also rehabilitative and long-term care facilities. The term “skilled nursing facility” refers to a medical center that offers 24-hour care by licensed professionals, such as registered nurses (RN), licensed practical nurses (LPN), occupational, physical and speech therapists. A physician may also oversee the care of each patient.

People may need skilled care for a short period of time after recovering from an illness or surgery, or they may need this level of care long term. Skilled care can include wound care, medication given by injection, IV therapy, physical and speech therapy, and a need for a person to be on a monitor, such as a heart monitor.

Long-term care facilities are often part of a skilled medical facility. They are for patients that require hands-on care and supervision 24 hours a day but may not require more intense skilled nursing care.

Is long-term care the same as assisted living?
Long-term can refer to both assisted living or care in a nursing home. The difference is the setting. A nursing home is a more clinical setting for personal medical care. An assisted living facility, on the other hand, provides care in a setting that is more home-like and social.

Medicare will often pay for skilled services for a set period of time and within certain boundaries, but it does not generally cover assisted living costs. Skilled nursing facilities are licensed and carefully monitored. You may check a skilled nursing facility's rating on Medicare.gov.

What are the types of long-term care facilities?
There are four main types of long-term care facilities for the elderly: independent living facilities, assisted living communities, nursing homes, and continuing care retirement communities. The main difference between these types of facilities is how much care a patient needs.

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