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Continuum of Care: What Is it and Who Benefits From It?

What is continuum of care?

Continuum of care facilities are residential facilities that are designed to provide varying levels of services as may be needed by an individual, ranging from independent living to assisted living to nursing home services, depending on current need.

This allows the senior to live comfortably in his or her own apartment for as long as possible, without having to move to another faciltiy when additional care is needed. These facilities go beyond the traditional retirement or nursing home approach in that seniors can maintain their independence while still receiving the care they need. Furthermore, continuum of care is expected to grow in popularity when the 73.8 million people who will be over 60 in 2020 demand better care options.

Continuum of care services

Each continuum of care facility is different, but as the individual ages – and as his needs become more and more complex – then the facility can provide services for those needs. It’s important to note, as well, that certain continuum of care services might only be required for a limited time. For example, if someone breaks a wrist or a leg, he or she may require additional help with particular tasks during the healing process. Once the injury or illness is no longer an issue, then that individual’s care needs can be readjusted.

Nursing home services form the core of a continuum of care facility, but other continuum of care services can be:

  • Transportation
  • Rehabilitative services
  • Nursing home services
  • Assisted living services
  • Adult day care services
  • Long-term care
  • Hospice

Benefits of continuum of care

Relocation stress, or transfer trauma, refers to the symptoms and outcomes people suffer from when moving from one location to another. Some of these include depression, fearfulness, decreased vigor and disruption of sleep patterns, just to name a few. With continuum of care, seniors can avoid such relocation stress.

Another benefit is that the care plan can be adjusted to meet the individual’s current and future needs for personal care or skilled nursing care. Residents can choose a living arrangement that meets their needs for independence and privacy. For the facility itself, residential services can be integrated to allow them to compete in the changing health care market. For example, people 65 and older make up about 12% of the U.S. population, yet represent 36% of all hospital stays. By providing an alternative care option, continuum of care services can significantly reduce the health care cost burden on an "as neede"’ basis.

Many nursing and assisted living homes are being upgraded to meet the demand for more continuum of care facilities. The administrator of the Masonic Home of New Jersey, a long-term care facility in operation for over 100 years, Douglas Policastro explains, "Every room is someone’s home. We didn’t want to have a designated hospice wing because it would entail moving our residents out of their homes. There is also a comfort level between our patients and their nurses. We didn’t want either of these comforts disrupted." The center plans to add independent living units for their residents, making their transition to the long-term care facility more seamless.

With careful planning, your loved one can continue to get the care he or she needs in the best possible environment you can find. Continuum of care services offer another alternative among the choices of that best care.

Fast Facts
  • Relocation stress may be defined as a state in which an individual experiences physiological and/or psychosocial disturbances as a result of transfer from one environment to another.
  • According to the United States Census, there will be a spike in the age 60+ population from 43.9 million in 2005 to 73.8 million in 2020, an absolute increase of 68%.
  • The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality says people 65 and older make up about 13% of the U.S. population, but account for about 36% of all hospital stays.