Study: Poor, minority areas lose nursing homes
Low-income and minority elders may need to rely more on home health care because of lack of access to nursing homes, a study suggests. Here, registered nurse Susan Eager, left, helps up Jane Awise at Awise's home in Thornton, Colorado.
January 18th, 2011
02:02 PM ET

Study: Poor, minority areas lose nursing homes

Nursing home closures in the United States tend to be concentrated in areas that are less affluent, more black or more Hispanic, a study in a leading medical journal has found.

Between 1999 and 2008, there was a net loss of more than 5% of nursing home beds, with a significantly higher risk of closure in ZIP codes with a higher proportion of blacks or Hispanics or a higher poverty rate, according to the report published online Tuesday by Archives of Internal Medicine.

During the years studied, 1,776 freestanding nursing homes closed, representing 11% of the total, compared with 1,126 closures of hospital-based facilities: nearly 50%, wrote the authors, led by Zhanlian Feng of Brown University.

Nursing homes in the nation's poorest ZIP codes were twice as likely to close as those in the most affluent areas. In the four ZIP codes with the highest percentage of blacks, nursing homes were 38 percent more likely to close than those in the four ZIP codes with the lowest concentration of blacks. The numbers for Hispanic populations were nearly identical.

"In the broader context of structural and socioeconomic disparities and persistent racial residential segregation, the clustering of nursing home closures in poor and minority-concentrated urban neighborhoods is troubling," the authors wrote.

"This phenomenon, arguably, resembles similar dynamics of inequalities in public schools, housing, environmental decline and other sectors."

The authors and an accompanying editorial express concern that as the population ages, certain groups' access to quality elder care will be limited.

"The one thing that is worse than having to put your mother in a nursing home is having to put your mother in a nursing home and having no high-quality facilities to choose from," Dr. Mitchell H. Katz of the San Francisco, California, Department of Health writes in the editorial.

The economic and ethnic disparities could force elders to be placed in facilities far from their families and communities, Katz wrote.

"Worse yet, because they are from low-income families, their friends and relatives may not be able to afford frequent trips to visit them," he wrote.

Katz argues that Medicare should start helping pay for assisted living and other alternatives to nursing home care, that doctors should demand "high-quality nursing homes in the communities where people have lived" and that doctors should "be more present" in nursing homes to help raise the quality of care.

The study will be published in the May 9 print issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, according to Science Daily.

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Filed under: Health • Health Care • U.S.
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Adriana Birmingham, Al

    That is because no one wants to provide this kind of care unless they can bankrupt several generations of the family.

    January 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jeanette

    This study is very disturbing, considering the hugh numbers of baby boomers who will soon need nursing homes available to them. In my grandparents day, old folks lived with their children, no questions asked. It was expected.
    Those who didn't have either money or family were sent to 'poor farms'.

    The structure of todays society would make it very difficult, if not impossible to care sick aand elderly at home. I look at the picture displayed with the article and I wonder how this elderly and obviously dependent lady manages when no one is there? These are our parents, the ones who tried to give us a better life than they had. What is happening is the same as kicking them to the curb and saying, "Fend for yourself'.

    What's next "Death with Dignity"?

    January 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. kim

    Those places probably needed to close they where death camps anyway poorly kept, poorly staff, under funded an doctors that rather work in better conditions. Death home

    January 18, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Cesar


    January 19, 2011 at 7:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Daniel

    Why should any of this surprise anybody? After all,the Pentagon gets top priority over everything along with the countries receiving our foreign aid money while the members of Congress think only of themselves! The MIC(military-industrial-complex) rules!!!

    January 19, 2011 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. beezo

    Maybe if those "POOR MINORITIES" would learn how to act in public and not be such ignorant POS they too could have somewhere nice to put their elderly but like most of u ghetto dwellers u monkeys just destroy everything including yourselves so keep up the good work and do us all a favor and keep knocking yourselves off and do the world a favor

    January 19, 2011 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  7. beezo

    Awww poor MINORITIES ya right what about the poor old white ppl why does it always have to be poor blacks just like the lady w the missing girl from NC u freakin black ppl really need to get over yourselves and instead of always looking for a handout why dont u teach your kids to act like normal human beings and not destroy EVERYTHING be ignorant as hell out in the public maybe the ghetto wouldnt be so bad DAMN ANIMALS

    January 19, 2011 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Mulder

      Beezo, your comments show me that ignorance is not limited to any one group.

      January 20, 2011 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. beezo

    Whats the matter mulder does the truth hurt

    January 20, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. John

    It’s sad that poor communities get shafted in situations like this. They have needs and lives at stake just like everyone else. Check out to find out if this affects your area.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Mulder

    No, the truth never hurts, but ignorant name-calling does.

    January 20, 2011 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |