As Long-Term Care Need Grows U.S. Nursing Home Residents Increasingly Minorities

The number of Americans residing in nursing homes has decreased in recent years but according to new research residents are becoming proportionately more black, more Hispanic, more Asian, and less white. 

According to the new study conducted by Brown University researchers the nationwide trend results from changing demographics and disparities in what people can afford.

“Over the past decade more minorities are receiving nursing home care,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.  “Often that is simply because Medicaid forces those without assets into a nursing home facility while those with the ability to pay now prefer to receive care at home.”

The authors of the stude appear to agree suggesting that the growing proportion of minorities in nursing homes is coming about partly because they do not have the same access to more desirable forms of care as wealthier whites do, said the study’s lead author Zhanlian Feng, assistant professor of community health in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

“Seemingly, we are closing the gap in terms of minority access to nursing home beds, but I don’t think that is something to celebrate,” Feng said. “They are really the last resort. Most elders would rather stay in their homes, or some place like home, but not a nursing home unless they have to.”

The new analysis finds that between 1999 and 2008 the number of Americans in nursing homes shrank by 6.1 percent to just over 1.2 million people. Over that same time period the number of whites in nursing homes decreased by 10.2 percent nationwide, while the number of blacks rose 10.8 percent, the number of Hispanics rose by 54.9 percent and the number of Asians rose by 54.1 percent.

The study authors note that prior research has shown that nursing homes located in predominately minority areas often are of lower quality and are more likely to close.   “People will increasingly understand that long-term care insurance is actually nursing home avoidance insurance,” Slome adds.  “If you want choice and control over where you or a loved one will ultimately receive care, you will need the ability to pay the cost or have it covered by insurance.”

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