Research suggests that growth in Black and Hispanic (minority) older adults’ nursing home (NH) use may be the result of disparities in access to community-based and alternative long-term services and supports (LTSS).
We aimed to determine whether minority groups receiving care in NHs versus the community had fewer differences in their functional needs compared with the differences in nonminority older adults, suggesting a disparity.
We identified respondents aged 65 years or above with a diagnosis of Alzheimer disease or dementia in the 2016 Health and Retirement Study who reported requiring LTSS help. We performed unadjusted analyses to assess the difference in functional need between community and NH care. Functional need was operationalized using a functional limitations score and 6 individual activities of daily living. We compared the LTSS setting for minority older adults to White older adults using difference-in-differences.
There were 186 minority older adults (community=75%, NH=25%) and 357 White older adults (community=50%, NH=50%). Between settings, minority older adults did not differ in education or marital status, but were younger and had greater income in the NH versus the community. The functional limitations score was higher in NHs than in the community for both groups. Functional needs for all 6 activities of daily living for the minority group were greater in NHs compared with the community.
Functional need for minority older adults differed by setting while demographics varied in unexpected ways. Factors such as familial and financial support are important to consider when implementing programs to keep older adults out of NHs.