Short-term stays are fueling the increase in nursing home residency, with more than half of Americans estimated to need care in a nursing home at some point in their lives, according to a recent study.

This total is well above the 35% estimate from the US Department of Health and Human Services, per the study, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Lifetime use of nursing homes is considerably greater than previously thought, mostly due to an increase in short stays of less than 3 weeks,” says lead researcher Michael Hurd, director of the RAND Center for the Study of Aging, in Santa Monica, Calif, in a media release from HealthDay.

Regarding who will pay for it and how, he states, “Out-of-pocket spending is not particularly large, on average, but the risk of long stays and of correspondingly large out-of-pocket spending is fairly large—5% of patients will spend more than 1,500 days in a nursing home, and 5% will spend more than $50,000.”

“Families need to take this into account for financial planning, and society needs to be prepared to assist families that cannot finance nursing home stays,” he adds.

In the study, the release explains, Hurd and his team analyzed 18 years of data from the Health and Retirement Study, which is a project sponsored by the US National Institute on Aging and the US Social Security Administration.

They found that most Americans could possibly afford brief nursing home care, with out-of-pocket costs of about $7,300. About one-third of adults between 57 and 61 will spend money on nursing home care, and 43% will have their care completely covered by private or public insurance, according to Hurd

Overall, the average nursing home stay was 272 nights, but for 10% the stay was more than 1,000 nights, per the findings.

But for the 5% of older adults who needed long stays, out-of-pocket costs were $47,000 or more, the researchers found, per the release.

Nursing home stays of 21 nights or less rose from 28% in 1998 to nearly 34% in 2010, the release continues.

The increase in shorter stays may be due to efforts to control Medicare and Medicaid costs by discharging patients from hospitals to nursing homes, where rehabilitation costs are lower, Hurd suggests in the release.

Only 11% or 12% of people in their early 60s use long-term care insurance, he notes, adding that people might be better off relying on Medicaid.

“It’s the best of a not-very-good situation,” Hurd shares.

[Source: HealthDay]