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Nursing home care alternatives.

Two articles in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine point out the rapidly increasing need for nursing home care in our aging population and the prohibitve cost of such care for many who need it.

Federal government projections about the future of nursing home care provide some startling figures. Among persons who turned 65 in 1990, an estimated 43 percent will enter a nursing home at least once before they die. More than half of this percentage will use a nursing home for at least a year, while one-fifth will be in one for five years or more! With the cost of nursing home care currently averaging $25,000 a year, the cost for persons in this latter group will be $125,000 at 1991 prices.

Neither public nor private insurance is likely to be able to meet this enormous cost. Imaginative alternative approaches to nursing home care will therefore be essential. Many are in nursing homes simply because they are without family or friends to look after them. Such a person might require nothing more than a modest 2-bedroom apartment or house, with a healthy, caring roommate. The roommate might also be someone who needs a home--another elderly person, or even a student, or young working person. Together, they could live in modest comfort at a fraction of the cost of a nursing home.

By separating the financing and provision of the various functions of a nursing home--such as simple housing, hotel-type services, and personal care--it should be possible to meet the current and coming needs of our aging population without bankrupting ourselves. In the process, we could provide for many individuals a far better living environment than most find in a nursing home.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:May 1, 1991
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