Study: Minorities lead nursing home population growth

A rising proportion of racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. nursing home population is attributed to factors beyond simple demographic changes, according to a study conducted by researchers at Brown University and reported in the July issue of Health Affairs.

Study analysis suggests a disparity in access to care based on race; white people who need long-term care seem to access the preferable home or community-based care while increasingly blacks, Asians and Hispanics are relegated to nursing homes.

Researchers collected information on the race and ethnicity of nursing home residents from 1999 to 2008. They discovered that the number of elderly white residents actually declined by 10.2 percent during that period.

At the same time, the study found that the number of elderly Hispanics and Asians living in nursing facilities shot up by 54.9 percent and 54.1 percent respectively. The number of black nursing home residents also increased by 10.8 percent.

The researchers maintain that black, Asian or Hispanic residents who need long-term care are less likely to have the resources or the social support to access home healthcare or find placement in an assisted living community and are thus more likely to be admitted to nursing homes. In contrast, older white people often live in higher-income neighborhoods with more alternatives to nursing home care. They often have private insurance or family support to stay at home or enter assisted living communities.

The researchers suggest that policy adjustments and initiatives should be designed to ensure equal access to all types of long-term care options, including home and community-based services and supports.

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