Closures impact urban poor the hardest

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Nursing home closures have hit poor, urban and minority communities especially hard over the past decade, according to a new study from Brown University.

The United States lost 5% of its nursing home beds during the 10-year study. Nonhospital nursing homes were twice as likely to close in the poorest ZIP codes. They also were more likely to close in predominantly black and Hispanic areas. Facility numbers declined by 50% between 1999 and 2008, with providers closing disproportionately greater in predominantly black and Hispanic, but not necessarily poorer, areas.

The closures have meant that poor and urban people have less access to long-term care, according to study authors. Full findings appear in the Jan. 10 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

The decision to close a nursing home leads to a dilemma, researcher Vince Mor said.

“If the local nursing home is closed because their quality is so poor, that's good, but the cost of that closure is disproportionately borne by a community,” he explained.

With fewer facilities nearby, visitors are forced to travel even farther to visit their loved one, the study found.