The Kaiser Health News reported the potential for a shortage of nursing homes for the babyboomers. The first baby boomers hit age 65 last year. By 2030, 20 percent of the U.S. population will be at least 65, up from 13 percent today. In that same period, the number of 85-year-olds will increase more than 50 percent and the number of 100-year-olds nearly triple. But the number of nursing homes dropped almost 9 percent from 2000 to 2009.

 However, many babyboomers will stay at home and will be healthy enough to avoid the need for skilled care. Less construction of new nursing homes and the aging baby boom generation may cause full occupancy at many nursing homes. 

Several trends are cutting into the number of nursing homes. Many homes were constructed during the 1960s under Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs. Often those homes are closed because they are old or, with their long hallways and large, multi-resident rooms, don’t fit what current residents want, says Robert Kramer of the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing and Care Industry.  From 2007 to 2011, the number of under-construction nursing home units (the sections of a facility that provide only nursing care) declined by a third.

Residing at a nursing home is not cheap. The median annual cost of a private U.S. nursing home room rose to $77,745 in 2011; up almost 30 percent from 2005. People without chronic conditions have less costly options;it takes about $43,500 yearly to pay for a home health care aide who doesn’t have specialized medical skills, and $39,000 to live in an assisted living facility that provides help with activities of daily life like cooking, but doesn’t necessarily offer health care services.

If nursing homes continue to be squeezed, they may need to continue to understaff. A November 2011 report by the University of California-San Francisco concluded that poor quality of care is already endemic in many nursing homes, especially the largest for-profit chains where staffing levels have been cut the deepest to save money.


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