Assisted living and in-home care increase as nursing home beds decline

Even with the U.S. population rapidly aging, a smaller proportion of elderly and disabled people live in nursing homes today compared to 1990. Instead, far more depend on assisted living residences or receive care in their homes, according to a study published in the August 2005 issue of the Journal of Applied Gerontology.

Residential care and assisted living facilities are designed to meet the needs of older people and people with disabilities who need some assistance with activities of daily living, meals and other support services. According to study findings, the capacity for this type of care nearly doubled in the 12 years from 1990 to 2002, to more than 1 million beds nationwide. When the growth of the population is taken into account, the number of such beds grew from 20.9 to 35.6 per 10,000 people.

In contrast, while the majority of people who need long-term care still live in nursing homes, the proportion of nursing home beds declined from 66.7 to 61.4 per 10,000 population.

"These changing trends in the supply of long-term care can be expected to continue because the demand for home and community based services is growing," said Charlene Harrington, RN, PhD, lead author of the study. She is a professor of social and behavioral sciences in the UCSF School of Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco.

Harrington and colleagues studied trends in all types of long-term residential care facilities from 1990 to 2002. While the proportion of nursing home beds to population declined, the actual number of licensed nursing home beds increased modestly, by 7 percent. The actual number of residential care and assisted living beds increased by 97 percent. Overall, the number of all types of long-term care beds increased by 7.8 percent, from 2.3 million in 1990 to 2.9 million in 2002.

There are, however, wide variations in the availability of facilities and beds across states, Harrington found. Nebraska has th

Contact: Janet Basu
University of California - San Francisco

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