What is 'Elder Care'

Elder care encompasses any services required to assist senior citizens in living as independently as possible. Examples range from basic help with transportation to complex medical care.


Elder care covers a broad set of services provided by a range of individuals or organizations. In general, it covers any assistance an aging individual needs in order to overcome challenges to normal daily activities. Caregivers who assist with these activities may range from family members to medical specialists and may or may not receive payment for the care provided. Those in need of elder care may receive it in their own home or in a more formal institutional setting, such as an assisted living facility, a memory-care facility or a full-service nursing home.

Much of the variability in elder care services stems from the different needs required by each aging individual’s situation. Those with chronic or debilitating conditions may need significantly more attention or hands-on care than those with minor physical issues. Memory problems often play a role in establishing both a need for care and the level of care required for an individual. For example, a person who forgets to take medications on time may only need a bit of help to ensure they take the right pills at the right dosages each day, while an individual who might put a pot of soup on the stove and forget about it for hours at a time may require more consistent attention.

Paying for Elder Care

Because elder care covers such a broad territory, insurance policies rarely cover all of its elements. In the U.S., government programs outside of Medicaid or long-term care insurance rarely cover the cost of custodial care, which encompasses non-medical care provided to assist in basic daily activities such as bathing or eating. Most states require seniors to deplete their savings to a certain level before Medicaid will cover custodial care provided in a facility offering nursing home-level care. To make things more confusing, different states define levels of care in different ways, so requirements vary from state to state.

Elder care can be costly, so it’s wise for families to plan ahead for the day when it might be needed. Fortunately, there are public and private sources of help. The Eldercare Locator at eldercare.acl.gov, sponsored by the U.S. Administration on Aging, offers information about agencies and other resources available in a given region, making it a useful starting point for caregivers seeking assistance.

  1. Elder Law

    Elder law is a legal specialty focusing on the rights and needs ...
  2. Financial Elder Abuse

    Financial elder abuse is taking advantage of the elderly and ...
  3. Assisted Living

    Assisted living is a type of housing facility for the elderly ...
  4. Group-Home Care

    Group home care is care provided to a group of people with similar ...
  5. Respite Care

    Respite care is short-term or temporary care of a few hours or ...
  6. Long-Term Care Ombudsman

    A long-term care ombudsman is an official who oversees nursing ...
Related Articles
  1. Insurance

    Long-Term Care Insurance: What You Need to Know

    Planning ahead for long-term care costs should be part of a financial plan.
  2. Insurance

    Long-Term Care Planning: It’s About Family

    More than 70% of retirees require long-term care, but few have a plan in place. The resulting burden is more than financial.
  3. Insurance

    Should You Buy Long-Term Care Insurance?

    Proper planning and knowledge can help you decide if long-term care insurance is right for you.
  4. Retirement

    Long-Term Care Expenses: What You Should Know

    Being prepared for long-term care is a critical element of financial planning. Here's what it costs.
  5. Insurance

    Long-Term Care Insurance: Who Needs It?

    No one is immune to the possibility of one day needing long-term care - and the costs can deplete a life savings.
  6. Financial Advisor

    Taking The Surprise Out Of Long-Term Care

    Don't be caught unprepared - find out what to look for in LTC insurance policies.
  7. Insurance

    Long-Term Care Insurance: What to Consider

    Long-term care may be a wild card in your financial plan, but at the very least, it should be discussed with your financial advisor.
  8. Insurance

    Your Complete Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance

    Learn everything you need to know about this critical insurance: what it is, what it covers, when to buy it, the cost, which companies offer it and more.
  9. Retirement

    Pros and Cons of "Small-Home" Care Facilities

    Intimate alternatives to traditional large nursing homes are gaining popularity. Could one of them be right for you or a member of your family?
  1. Operation management in healthcare

    Discover how operations management theory is applied across a broad spectrum of operational and management issues in the ... Read Answer >>
Trading Center