The Rand Corporation issued a press release about their new study showing that the average American’s lifetime risk of using a nursing home is substantially greater than previous research has suggested. Among persons age 57 to 61, 56 percent will stay in a nursing home at least one night during their lifetime, according findings published online by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Previous studies have generally corroborated the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ estimate that only 35 percent of older Americans are likely to use a nursing home in their later years.
The average nursing home stay was 272 nights and for 10 percent of the study group, the stay was much longer—more than 1,000 nights. Out-of-pocket spending was similarly skewed, with 5 percent of older Americans needing long stays costing $47,000 or more over their lifetime.
“It is important to provide individuals and families a reliable assessment of the likelihood of entering a nursing home in retirement,” said Michael Hurd, lead author of the study and a senior principal researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “This information could help people make better decisions about how they or their loved ones will pay for the care they are likely to need.”
The graying of the U.S. population and growing numbers of Americans needing expensive, long-term care for dementia could cause the rate of nursing home use to keep rising and increase pressure on Medicaid to cover the costs.
“People think of Medicaid as being for the indigent, which is true at younger ages,” he said. “But Medicaid is the most important payer for nursing homes, covering a greater proportion of costs than individuals and families pay out-of-pocket. At older ages, Medicaid is an insurance program that many of us may need to use.”
Having children, the study notes, does not lessen the chances of needing a nursing home in old age, but can reduce the length of the stay and cut the associated costs by as much as 38 percent. Having daughters able to provide in-home care was correlated with even larger savings.
Funding for the study was provided by the National Institute on Aging. Other authors of the study are Pierre-Carl Michaud and Susann Rohwedder.
The RAND Labor and Population program examines issues involving U.S. labor markets, the demographics of families and children, policies to improve socio-economic well being, the social and economic functioning of the elderly, and economic and social change in developing countries.