More minorities entering nursing homes

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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 Health Affairs.

Some nursing homes have marketed to 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.

Feng told McKnight's that the surprising increase of minorities could reflect a cultural shift among immigrant families. In many residents' native countries, sending an aging relative to a nursing home carries a huge stigma.

“As time goes by, these cultural ties are becoming loosened,” Feng told McKnight's. “In Hispanic countries, due to economic factors, extended families often live together.”