Long-term care is a variety of services intended to help a person cope with a loss of physical or mental functioning. It can include medical treatment, skilled nursing care, and various kinds of therapy provided by healthcare professionals, but it more typically involves assistance with performing basic functions and supervision provided by nonprofessional personnel such as home health aides or by informal caregivers such as family and friends.

Individuals need long-term care if they have a functional impairment (an inability to perform basic functions required for a person to take care of herself) or a cognitive impairment (a condition such as Alzheimer's disease that results in confusion, disorientation, impaired judgment, or memory loss and makes close supervision necessary).

Long-term care is provided in a variety of settings, including the home, community sites such as adult day centers, residential sites such as assisted living residences and continuing care retirement communities, and facilities such as nursing homes and board and care homes. It also includes services such as transportation, delivered meals, and respite care.

The cost of an extended stay in a nursing home or prolonged use of home healthcare services is substantial, and prices are rising about 5 percent a year.