Minorities are entering nursing homes in record numbers, new study finds

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Minorities have entered nursing facilities in record numbers during the past decade, while wealthier white residents have been leaving skilled nursing care, new research shows.

Between 1999 and 2008, the number of whites in nursing homes dropped by 10.2%. The number of blacks in nursing homes increased by 10.8%, the number of Hispanics jumped 54.9% and the number of Asians grew by 54.1%, according to research published in the July issue of Health Affairs.

In a competitive landscape, some nursing homes have marketed minorities more aggressively. But study author Zhanlian Feng, Ph.D., cautions that nursing homes are still seen as a “last resort” for many elderly individuals. The difference is that whites may be more able to afford services like home care, Feng says.

However, Feng told McKnight's that the surprising increase of minorities in nursing homes, particularly among Hispanic and Asian residents, could reflect a cultural shift among immigrant families. Feng says that in many residents' native countries, sending an aging parent or relative to a nursing home carries a huge stigma. That stigma goes away when immigrants move to the United States.

“As time goes by, these cultural ties are becoming loosened,” he says. “In Hispanic countries, due to economic factors, extended families often live together. … I believe there are real things happening that are undermining the family care system in minority families,” Feng told McKnight's.

Feng stressed the need for more empirical evidence. He noted that nursing homes in China are emerging and expanding rapidly, so the trend may not be limited to the United States.