Often, certain terms can be confused under the umbrella of Elder Law, and for apparently little reason other than the tendency of many to underestimate the resiliency of older adults. Two terms that may get conflated inappropriately are “elder care” and “long-term care.” As is imaginable, there is a lot to be said for their coincidence. Elder care is a more general term for care and services that address needs particular to the geriatric population, which long-term care certainly falls under. However, and potentially obviously to some, not all aging adults require a skilled nursing facility.
One form of elder care that does not compel elder individuals and their families to keep them in a facility at all times (save for an authorized trip outside of the building) is adult day care. Of course, most people are familiar with day care as a means of entertaining, protecting and stimulating the minds of very young children, among other things.
In many ways, though, adult day care is built on similar precepts, as these types of programs provide opportunities for participants to get in some physical activity in a fun context, have some snacks and meals, interact with one another, and receive treatment as needed.
Moreover, these services are designed to be of relatively low cost and minimal burden to the sponsoring family, allowing them the ability to work and seek some respite from the demands of caring for the elderly. This may not be as salient a form of long-term care as other solutions, especially since it involves no residential aspect, but all the same, adults may be enrolled in day care programs for extended periods of time.
Another form of elder care that implies a habitual commitment without actual commitment to a facility is known as a senior center. Senior centers are essentially meeting places for older adults where they may enjoy education, meals, recreation, socialization, and special events and trips. Unlike with adult day care, though, the individuals who attend senior center programs are not as dependent on others for their day-to-day needs.
Plus, in many cases, as opposed to day care, which is a private, paid service, senior centers will be publicly-funded so that most if not all of their functions will be free of charge to the attendee. In terms of long-term care, a senior center is not exactly a prototypical example, but nevertheless, its affording of amenities that fulfill basic human needs is somewhat characteristic of this branch of elder care.
Additionally, some forms of long-term care may not even require that recipients visit an out-of-home facility. One notable example is the presence of Meals on Wheels programs across the country. Meals on Wheels is a nationally-recognized organization that, as the name implies, brings meals to seniors who otherwise would have trouble cooking for themselves or going out and getting food. It is staffed mostly by dedicated volunteers, and is thus quite literally a form of community service.
Another service known as “telephone assurance” is designed expressly to engage elderly individuals who spend the bulk of their time alone at home. A family member, friend, or even an independent third party will call the at-home resident daily to make sure he or she does not need medical attention; if he or she does not answer, this may be a sign that emergency help is needed.