Nursing homes vs. home care: Where should people care for their aging parents?


Fact Box

  • MedlinePlus defines a nursing home as “a place for people who don't need to be in a hospital but can't be cared for at home. Most nursing homes have nursing aides and skilled nurses on hand 24 hours a day.”
  • Statista reports that as of October 2022, there were 15,183 “certified nursing facilities” in the US. 
  • In 2015, the average length of residential stay in a government-owned nursing home was 305 days
  • Compared to the rest of the world, Pew Research Center reports that the US has the highest number of older people, 27%, living on their own.

Sheryll (Nursing Homes)

Senior citizens will arguably be in better care when they are under the watch of professionals. Nursing homes are typically staffed with a variety of medical experts who can ensure residents are provided 24-hour supervision and assistance with everyday activities. This is especially important for seniors who have ongoing physical or mental conditions that may necessitate constant care and supervision.

Also, it is arguably much safer for the elderly to remain in nursing homes. For those diagnosed with dementia or with a tendency to wander, keeping them in a home would help ensure their safety and security at all times. Furthermore, older people are often the target of fraudsters, making them likely victims of violent crimes even within their own homes. A nursing home will be effective in keeping them away from harm. 

A nursing home also provides social opportunities an older person might not otherwise have. Being surrounded by peers in the same age group will allow seniors to develop various sources of social support, which can help lower stress and reduce the risk of some physical health concerns. One study also found that cognitive abilities declined 70% slower in senior citizens with more social connections. 

Lastly, families will also benefit from keeping their loved ones in a nursing home. Most households today tend to require all adults to work, which means they will unlikely have enough time to guarantee that their loved ones are provided sufficient care throughout the day. Choosing to keep seniors in a home can ensure the rest of the family has peace of mind. 

Chad (Home Care)

Caring for loved ones at home is far better than placing them in nursing homes for many reasons, chief among them is that nursing homes are for-profit companies and regularly put profit above the well-being of older adults. Not only do they have inflated staff-to-patient ratios, but studies show that death rates are 10% higher

Fraud and abuse in nursing homes are rampant, as these facilities care for elderly people with reduced faculties who cannot advocate for themselves. Patients in nursing homes were found to have sharper declines in quality of life, less mobility, higher pain scores, and an increased likelihood of being put on antipsychotic medications. 

Studies show that in reported cases of elder abuse, 82% occurred in nursing homes. But, these studies also note that no good data exists on the actual numbers of elders who are verbally abused, neglected, withheld from food or showers, and denied other basic needs.

Notably, while only making up one percent of the US population, nursing homes accounted for 35% of US COVID deaths. It was found that staff also encountered more issues, as they had a lack of PPE. Most nursing homes are grossly understaffed; combine that with high turnover rates, and the result is too few staff and improperly trained or incentivized staff.  

Furthermore, most nursing home care is done by Certified Nursing Assistants with only 120 hours of training. Alcohol and drug abuse are high among CNAs, and having genuine sympathy or compassion for patients is not a requirement of the job.

Spending the last years of your life in a nursing home surrounded by strangers with no vested interest in your well-being is not a dignified end-of-life experience. Care for your loved ones by bringing them home.

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