Long-Term Care:

Diverse, Growing Population Includes Millions of Americans of All Ages

HEHS-95-26: Published: Nov 7, 1994. Publicly Released: Nov 22, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided estimates of the current and future numbers of people needing long-term care, focusing on the: (1) characteristics of the population needing long-term care; (2) prevalence of current long-term care needs; (3) factors that may influence future long-term care needs; and (4) diversity of needs among different groups.

GAO found that: (1) currently, there are over 12 million people with chronic conditions who need assistance with everyday activities; (2) about 5 million of the long-term care population are working-age adults and about 420,000 are children under age 18; (3) nearly 10 million people needing long-term care live at home or in small community residences; (4) family and friends provide most long-term care services without compensation; (5) long-term care needs range from occasional help with household chores to daily help with self-care activities; (6) about 5.1 million people need substantial assistance with basic self-care activities because of severe disabilities and about one-half of these persons are institutionalized; (7) long-term care need could double within the next 25 years as the baby boomers age, but meaningful projections are difficult to make due to uncertainties pertaining to life expectancy, life styles, and health status, the size of the future nonelderly disabled population, and technological and medical advances; (8) the nonelderly disabled population will probably increase as more low-birth-weight babies and young adults survive previously fatal conditions and events; (9) the diversity in ages, disabling conditions, and needs among the long-term care population will require greater flexibility in the design and administration of long-term care programs to match individual needs; and (10) increased government subsidized long-term care will be needed as fewer family members and friends have the resources and time to care for the disabled.

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