What is Short-Term Care?

If you’ve heard “short-term care” mentioned in passing, you may not know how it differs from long-term care. You may be unaware of what types of short-term care are available or how to find good short-term care. You’re in luck, though – all of those questions will be answered in this blog post!

Keep reading to learn more.

Key Differences of Short-Term Care

Although short-term care bears some resemblance to long-term care, there are a few key differences in terms of the goal, duration, and age range of those who benefit from it. The reason it’s needed is also different. 


Long-term care is necessary to help a person remain comfortable through the course of long-term illness, and is mostly useful for the elderly and those with progressive, degenerative diseases. Long-term care offers comprehensive treatment and a variety of amenities to maintain the quality of life for seniors, etc. 

Goal-oriented care

Short-term care is needed after a condition in which the person is expected to make a full recovery back to their former healthy and independent state. Another way of looking at it could be “rehabilitation.”


Here are some of the issues that can lead to short-term care:

  • Fall
  • Mild stroke
  • Cardiac event
  • Illness (such as recovery from COVID-19)
  • Injury
  • Surgery
  • Hospitalization
  • Accident recovery

It’s meant to be temporary

Clearly, short-term care is meant to be temporary. There are different types of short-term care which we’ll touch on later, but it mainly consists of medical care or custodial care. 


In terms of duration, short-term care can last several days to months, depending on the circumstances and the level of care that’s needed. Ultimately, though, it’s meant to get the person back on their feet so they can go on living their life.


That said, some studies show that short-term care stays are getting shorter, which may result in medically fragile acute care discharges – so it’s important to seek as much coverage as possible when looking for short-term care insurance. 

Helps people of all ages

Because short-term care is meant for recovery from any type of injury or illness, it’s not just beneficial for the elderly. Adults of all ages can benefit from short-term care. Even if it’s as simple as preparing meals while you recover from surgery or driving you to an appointment, short-term care is meant to help. 

Types of Short-Term Care

As discussed earlier, the main types of short-term care are custodial/personal care and medical care/skilled nursing. That said, respite care may also fall under the umbrella of short-term care if you consider the literal meaning of the phrase – though it is less geared toward rehabilitation and more about providing a short-term break to the caregiver. 

Custodial/personal care

Custodial/personal care is sometimes known as home health and may involve the following:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Feeding/preparing meals
  • Helping the patient use the restroom
  • Household help (picking up the house)
  • Mobility/walking aids or exercises
  • And more

Medical care/skilled nursing

Medical care or skilled nursing could include:

  • Blood draws/blood sugar checks
  • Catheter care
  • Diagnostic testing
  • Medication help/administration
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Respiratory therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Wound care
  • X-Rays
  • Vitals
  • And more


Respite care is short-term relief for caregivers, so they can be at their best to continue providing long-term care to their loved ones. For more information, check out our respite care article!

How to Find Short-Term Care

If you’re looking for short-term care for your loved one, you want the best option possible. Here are some tips on how to find short-term care that will help your family member:

  • Ask around. Once you know the type of care you’re looking for, ask around for recommendations. Talk to doctors, friends, or family members who have been through or dealt with short-term care, and ask what they enjoyed and disliked about it. If you don’t know anyone who can recommend a short-term care facility, consider asking the National Post-acute and Long-term Care Study for recommendations. 
  • Visit some possible options. Note: if your loved one requires skilled nursing care, your insurance will likely provide a list of options. Visit those locations if you can – and if not, see if there’s a website or virtual tour option available for you.
  • Talk to the staff. Come prepared with a list of questions so you can interview the staff about what to expect regarding your loved one’s care. Your goal is to find a communicative, clear, and responsive company. The best way to find out is by having a face-to-face meeting with a potential caregiver. 
    • Ask about goals and timelines. Frustration crops up when our expectations aren’t met – so to be sure you’re on the same page, ask about your loved one’s care goals. You may also want to ask about how long recovery ought to take and when to know if adjustments should be made to the expected timeline. 
  • Switch if you need to. Although the selection and interviewing process can be stressful, it’s more stressful to have your loved one in a facility or with a company you don’t feel good about. If you feel their needs are not being met, switch to a different facility. You shouldn’t feel any guilt about doing what’s best for your loved one. 

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