Nursing home population tumbles 20%

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The number of Americans 65 or older residing in a nursing home fell from 1.6 million to 1.3 million during the decade ending in 2010, according to a new federal report.

In addition, the share of this older population group residing in a skilled nursing facility, dropped from 4.5% to 3.1% during the same time span. Meanwhile, the share in other long-term care facilities, such as assisted living, has grown, notes the report “65+ in the United States: 2010.”

The SNF census slide illustrates an ongoing trend that the federal government is encouraging: more money and people migrating to home- and community-based services. The U.S. population group also is generally healthier than in the past, and is taking part in many more outpatient procedures and short-term stays for rehabilitation.

In 2010, nearly 96% of nursing home or institutionalized residents had a disability while only about 37% of non-institutionalized seniors did, report authors noted.  

Alzheimer's disease rose from the seventh-leading cause of death in this population in 2000 to fifth most common in 2010.

The report was released in June and is a product of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Commerce Department.