Sep 12, 2023 - Health

Nursing homes' image problems persist after COVID: poll

Data: Gallup; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Gallup; Chart: Axios Visuals

Most Americans say they wouldn't want to live in a nursing home — or for a relative to live in one — over concerns about care quality and cost, according a new Gallup survey.

Why it matters: Nursing homes already had an image problem before they were hit hard by COVID-19, and the poll suggests they have more work to do to regain public trust.

  • The Biden administration's recent proposal to boost nursing home staffing requirements could help improve public confidence in the industry, though some advocates say the policies don't go far enough to ensure patient safety.

Driving the news: More than 40% of U.S. adults rate nursing home quality as poor or failing, per the survey.

  • 70% said they'd be at least somewhat uncomfortable going into a nursing home when they can no longer take care of themselves. Just over 60% said the same about a relative.
  • Gallup partnered with West Health, a nonprofit aimed at lowering care costs and enabling seniors to age in place, on the survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults in July.

Details: Quality of care was listed at the top concern (70%) for those uncomfortable about nursing homes.

  • Nearly half of respondents also cited the cost of care and potential negative mental health effects.
  • Women listed concerns about physical safety more frequently than men, while more men feared a loss of independence.

Between the lines: Seniors generally want to age at home. More than three-quarters of adults over 55 want to stay in their current home or community for as long as possible, according to a 2021 AARP survey.

What they're saying: Biden's proposed nursing home staffing standards "would be a step in the right direction, but on their own they will not remedy the crisis in confidence we see in these polling results," Tim Lash, president of West Health, said in an email to Axios.

  • The results show that home- and community-based care models need more support, Lash added.

The other side: Nursing homes provide life-saving care to seniors and people with disabilities, the nursing home industry group American Health Care Association told Axios in a statement.

  • It's important to strengthen — not demonize — nursing homes so they can still provide care to people who require it, AHCA said.
  • The organization declined to comment on the Gallup/West Health survey specifically.
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