A devastated senior man dealing with some terrible news

Barely one-quarter of Americans believe that nursing homes are safe environments while fewer than 10% give such facilities high marks for the overall quality of care provided, according to a new Gallup poll. 

Six percent of people gave nursing homes a failing grade of F while 36% assigned a grade of D. Just 1% said facilities were “excellent” and deserved an A, and 8% awarded a B. 

Gallup and West Health, a nonprofit medical research organization, conducted the poll through a nationally representative audience of approximately 100,000 people via online answers July 5 to July 24 and determined that most adults in the US would reluctantly admit a relative to a nursing home. 

“The new poll makes it clear that nursing homes have much work to do to instill more public confidence in their facilities,” Gallup authors wrote in their analysis. “While it’s natural that people entering nursing homes would have reservations about the lifestyle changes inherent in moving into such a care facility, they should not have to worry about their safety or the quality of care they will receive.”

Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, said that Americans’ perception of nursing homes as the bad guy is being pushed by influential players.

“Unfortunately, in the narrative of aging services in America — especially during the COVID pandemic — nursing homes have been portrayed as the villain by media and policymakers,” Sloan said in a statement issued early Tuesday after the poll’s release. “So it’s no wonder that everyday Americans may be skeptical or fearful of nursing homes.” 

Last week, Sloan warned President Biden in a USA Today op-ed that he was eroding trust in all nursing home operators through his administration’s ongoing rhetoric, much of it meant to garner support for staffing minimums at the expense of well-intentioned providers.

“We know that attitudes about nursing homes are shaped by fear of getting older and societal ageism that devalues older lives,” she added Tuesday. “This negative bias toward aging, combined with outdated funding models and under-investment in the nursing home infrastructure, has led to systemic, chronic undervaluing of nursing homes.” 

LeadingAge’s statement included a link to its own summer 2021 research that showed 68% of people who have had direct experience with aging services described their interactions as positive. 

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living also pushed back against Gallup’s findings, acknowledging that few people want to enter a nursing home but that they are necessary places for care. 

“The fact that we get older and will possibly need a lot of care can be difficult to accept,” the association said in a statement provided to McKnight’s Long-Term Care News Tuesday. “This, in turn, leads to misperceptions about the value and benefits of nursing home care. But when you ask actual long-term residents and family members, approximately 75% are satisfied with the care they or their loved one is receiving.”

The association said it was basing that 75% satisfaction rating on the results of COREQ surveys tracked by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Other findings from Gallup include: 

  • Seven in 10 people said they would be “very or somewhat uncomfortable” if they had to be admitted to a nursing home;
  • 42% said nursing homes do not effectively keep residents safe from infections, pressure wounds, abuse, neglect, and other avoidable harms;
  • 27% had concerns about physical safety inside nursing homes
  • 28% said they do not wish to die in a facility.