Nursing Home Entry Rates Rise, Weigh on Wealth Levels

As more American senior citizens are entering nursing homes they face the likelihood that their household wealth will be quickly depleted, according to new research by EBRI.

The EBRI research notes that nursing home stays among older Americans have increased steadily during the past decade: Nursing home stays increased from 6 percent of those age 65 and older in 2000 to 8.5 percent in 2010.

Seniors face a number of retirement planning uncertainties like longevity risk, inflation risk, and investment risk, but perhaps none as critical to their retirement security as health risk. EBRI’s research also shows dramatic differences in wealth levels between those who enter a nursing home and those who do not, based on data from the Health and Retirement Study (HRS).

For instance, after respondents’ first entries into a nursing home, total household wealth fell steadily over a six-year period. By comparison, household wealth increased steadily over the survey periods for those who never entered a nursing home. The EBRI report notes that the average cost for a semi-private nursing home room in the United States is $207 a day (or $75,555 a year) and between 10–20 percent of those who enter a nursing home will stay there for more than five years.

“Given the potentially catastrophic expenditure shock associated with nursing home stays, it is very important to examine how those who entered nursing homes in the past or those who are still living in those facilities manage their portfolios following a nursing home entry,” said Sudipto Banerjee, EBRI research associate and author of the report. “Almost all types of assets decline fast and steadily for those who enter nursing homes. In contrast, similarly aged people who never enter nursing homes experience a steady increase in their assets.”

The full report is published in the June 2012 EBRI Issue Brief, “Effects of Nursing Home Stays on Household Portfolios,” online here. The press release is online here.

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President and CEO, EBRI

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