Care takes many forms and there are also many types of caregivers. Understanding what you or a loved one needs for care may be straightforward for something like a broken bone. On the other hand, when you have a family member showing signs of dementia or who has limited mobility after an accident, care needs are more complicated and more difficult to determine. It is crucial, though, to figure out what your care needs are before selecting a type of care and a provider.

Why Understanding Need is So Important

There are several reasons it is important to understand your care needs, or the needs of a loved one. On the most basic level, understanding the care you need helps you to ensure you get optimum results. For instance, if you have difficulty breathing, you need a respiratory specialist, not just a regular doctor. You will get better care if you choose a specialist, or get a referral to specialist.

Other reasons for understanding your care needs include that it helps you make better choices in all aspects of care. Knowing what care you need means you make more informed choices of care facilities, caregivers, the type of insurance you need to have, and how much you can afford to pay for your care. Understanding your needs will also streamline the process of getting care so that you can get diagnosed, treated, and supported more quickly and experience better outcomes.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Care

Depending on your care needs, you may have a lot of different choices to make, including a choice between short-term or long-term care. For instance if you are struggling with a substance use disorder, you are facing a chronic condition that requires ongoing care. A short-term stay in a treatment facility may be a good first step, but you are likely to need to transition into long-term car after that to help maintain sobriety and get any mental health care you need. Other illnesses, such as pneumonia, may require only short term care, such as a few days in a hospital to fight the infection.

Urgent and Emergency Care

When you have an acute illness or an injury, your care needs become more immediate. Do you need urgent care or emergency treatment? Urgent care can be used for injuries or illnesses that are not immediately life-threatening or that don’t require advanced, hospital-based treatment strategies. Many people may choose this as an alternative to the ER because it may be less expensive. If you know that you don’t need emergency treatment, urgent care is a better match for your care needs.

Residential vs. Outpatient Care

Some care needs require you to make the choice between inpatient and outpatient care. The former involves a residential facility where you may stay for a few nights, a few months, or indefinitely, while the latter refers to care that you receive while still living at home. Understanding needs for care is very important in making this decision. For example, you may have a loved one who struggles with a serious illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. There may be times when this person is a danger and needs intensive care in a residential setting. At other times outpatient therapy sessions may be an adequate level of care if the person can function well enough at home.

Hospitalization, Nursing Homes, and Assisted Living

For patients who are disabled, who are elderly and have care needs, or who are struggling with diseases like Alzheimer’s or dementia, care needs can be more complex. For a loved one in one of these situations you need to evaluate his or her needs and determine the best kind of care to meet those needs. For periods in which a person’s health is very poor and could potentially worsen, hospitalization may be necessary for a short period of time.

If your loved one is not in immediate danger of becoming sicker or who is unable to function without skilled care, a nursing home may provide the right level of care. For those who do not need constant, 24-hour care, but do need help with things like housework, medication, cooking, or bathing, assisted living can provide a good balance of care and independence.

Types of Therapy Based on Need

Therapy is a type of care that ranges widely depending on patients’ needs. Even if you or a loved one is already receiving appropriate medical or mental health care, you may also need additional care. Sometimes medicine, nursing, and psychological care are not enough to meet the needs of an individual. This is where other types of therapy can be useful.

Physical therapy, for instance, can help people regain mobility after injuries or surgery. An occupational therapist can help someone who is disabled learn to function on a daily basis. A respiratory therapist goes beyond what medical doctors do for patients with respiratory illnesses and helps them with breathing techniques that improve lung function.

Mental Health Needs

Mental health care needs vary a lot by individual. Mental illnesses are not that uncommon but are often undiagnosed. Getting evaluated and diagnosed is often the first step in care for anyone with mental health needs. This is followed by a decision about treatment and care needs. Mental illnesses can be treated with outpatient therapy with individuals, with family, or in a group setting.

Mental health care can also be provided in a residential setting. This option is often better for someone with a greater need for care. If you or a loved one struggles to function every day, to go to work or school or to live independently, then residential care is often the best option to meet those health care needs.

Care Providers to Meet Care Needs

Understanding your care needs is also important as you decide which type of caregiver to select. For someone who needs care in the home, for instance, there are home aids with little health care training beyond first aid and CPR, but who can provide assistance with housework or serve as companions. There are also home health care workers or nursing aids with more health training. Registered nurses may offer in-home care as well for those with greater needs, but their care comes at a greater cost. Knowing what your needs are will help you choose the best provider who will give you adequate care without paying for services or expertise you don’t need.

Care can be confusing and overwhelming, especially if you or a loved one is unwell or deteriorating and losing independence. Before seeking out care, take an appropriate amount of time to be sure you understand what you need or what your loved one needs. This will help you make the most informed decision so that you get the right kind of care, the right level of care, and the appropriate caregiver.