Patients are now requiring long-term care at a younger age than previously.

The Shifting Horizons of Long-term Care: How Demographics Are Shifting

A recent study found more than half of Americans will spend time in a long-term care facility at some point in their lives.

The study, conducted by the RAND Corporation, found that 56 percent of American adults between the ages of 57 and 61 will spend at least one night in a Skilled Nursing Facility in their lifetime. This is compared to a previous estimate of 35 percent by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The percentage increase may be connected to a current shift toward shorter stays, as hospitals aim to decrease costs by discharging residents to SNFs earlier than they’d done previously. The survey showed that short stays at long-term facilities of 21 nights or fewer have increased from 28 percent in 1998 to close to 34 percent in 2010.

The study also indicates that 5 percent of residents will spend more than 1,500 days in an SNF, while another 5 percent will spend more than $50,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for long-term care. These findings are important for seniors and their families to consider for financial planning, and for SNFs, which must adjust and prepare for a larger amount of residents needing long-term care.

Read on to learn about the potential impact of these findings.

What the Findings Mean for Long-Term Care Providers

The results of the study are impactful for long-term care providers, giving them the opportunity to plan, adapt, and prepare their facilities and systems to handle the influx of residents in the years to come.

Overall, the results affect three main groups—therapy providers, residents and their families, and the government.

According to the study, the average SNF stay for residents was 272 nights. However, for 10 percent of those surveyed, the stay was more than 1,000 nights.

But the most significant impact of the findings is that SNFs can expect younger patients for shorter stays as more patients seek care following orthopedic and other procedures.

Looking at this data, it’s important for SNFs to consider:

  • Shifting therapy services to accommodate the different needs of residents
  • Improving technology to allow for more efficient, optimal care
  • Assessing staff needs for both shorter stays and long-term care

The Changing Face of Long-term Care Residents

When many people think of long-term care, they associate it with old age. But as clarified by this study, that association is increasingly incorrect. Younger patients are now seeking long-term care to help them rehabilitate following surgical procedures, such as joint replacement.  

Younger patients are also increasingly in need of care that was once considered the realm of the elderly—rehabilitation following stroke. In a study published in JAMA, researchers found that the rate of strokes occurring in young people is steadily increasing.

In fact, the rate of hospitalization for ischemic stroke for men younger than age 44 increased by about 42 percent between 2003 and 2012. The rate for women in that age group increased by 30 percent during the same time.

What does this finding mean for skilled nursing? It means an infusion of a younger resident population, which will require a different approach to resident-centered care. Younger patients have different needs and abilities, requiring an adaptation on the part of all parts of the multidisciplinary SNF team, including different types of therapy.

On the whole, the study indicates that the need long-term care is unlikely to budge in the coming years. As such, Skilled Nursing Facilities must make necessary adjustments and preparations to ensure incoming residents are receiving optimal care individualized to their specific needs.

At Apex Rehab, we’re dedicated to providing the most efficient therapy services to help you navigate current trends in resident care. Find out how our services could make a difference for your SNF by calling (412) 963-9698.