The Continuum of Care
When talking with professionals who provide care and services to seniors, they may use the term “Continuum of Care”. This describes the¬†range of services that exist to meet the short-term or on-going care needs of seniors as they age. Based on the levels of health care needed, seniors can receive these services in their own homes, through local community organizations, or only in institutional settings.
The illustration below is meant to depict the array of services and providers of long-term care for seniors. It is organized with the lowest level of intervention on the bottom. The care here is for independent seniors who have few physical or mental limitation and are handling their own daily activities. Moving toward the top of the drawing, each level shows the kinds of service providers that can meet higher and higher levels of need, especially as supportive and then medical care become more acute.
(Click on the illustration to enlarge.)
Second, it is comprised of a mix of health (medical) care, such as hospitals, skilled nursing facilities and doctors; social or supportive care (residential communities) including board and care homes and assisted living; and community-based health and social services such as home care, Meals on Wheels and senior centers.
Third, there is no central access point because the continuum is a patchwork of independent providers of care that may or may not know about each other. For those unfamiliar with the variety of care available, the continuum can seem like a maze.
Fourth, individuals who utilize services do not move neatly from one level to another. Seniors’ needs can fluctuate from lowest to highest levels of care and back again many times during their later life.
And finally, the licensing and regulations governing the operations of the services providers run the gamut from none, to a little, to lots. And, depending on the degree of medical intervention provided and who is paying for the care, oversight comes from local authorities, state governing bodies, or federal agencies.