Our population is aging, yet fewer people are choosing nursing home living, reports the Associated Press. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that the number of nursing home residents dropped significantly -- from 1.63 million to 1.49 million -- in the five-year period between 1999 and 2004 (this is the last year for which data is available).
Why the shift? For one, nursing homes have long carried a stigma of caring only for the very old, frail, and dying. Many nursing home facilities have already adapted to an assisted-living-like community lifestyle, and many focus on short-term rehabilitation, but nonetheless, many consumers still think of a nursing home as a place to grow old and die, rather than as a place to continue living life.
To adapt to changing consumer demands, other nursing homes have taken innovation a step further by offering adjunct services, like in-home care or assisted living. One nursing home began offering pick-up service from its cafeteria to community members, while another opened its fitness classes to non-residents. Another even began to sell incontinence products online.
Some nursing homes with a menu of offerings have experienced jumps in revenues over the past several years, but they've noticed a definitive shift in where the money's coming from. Nancy King of Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services told the Associated Press that demand for services outside of core nursing home care has doubled in the past five years. These services now account for one-fifth of the company's revenue, which was once solely generated by nursing home care.
But don't count nursing home care out just yet. There will always be a need for nursing home care, which is currently the only long-term care option that can always be paid for by Medicaid -- assisted living facilities and in-home care providers have limitations on the care they can offer or the length of time a patient can receive services under Medicaid. And as nursing homes adapt to ever-changing market demands, they will gradually overcome past negative stigmas as consumers realize that nursing homes have a lot to offer residents in their aging years.
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