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Simple Math Makes it Even More Difficult to Find a Nursing Home for Dad

Searching for a nursing home for her hospitalized husband, a client of mine recently came up against an unexpected barrier. It’s harder to find a bed for a man than for a woman.

Finding a nursing home for an ailing loved one, and a good nursing home that is affordable, is already a fairly difficult task. Unfortunately, it’s only likely to grow in difficulty as the number of elderly in need of care begins to peak. Unfortunately, too, there are some factors that you just might not think of. Like this: it is disproportionately difficult to find a nursing home for a male patient.

This fact was recently pointed out over at the New Old Age Blog and I thought it was worth sharing. What is working against our male elderly loved ones is not much more than simple math, with a bit of Medicare policy work at play. As you are likely aware, women have a longer life span on average and therefore there are more women in nursing homes to begin with; that’s already a bottleneck based on population statistics. Then you throw in the fact that, under Medicare rules, most rooms in nursing homes are no more than “semi-private”, a delicate euphemism, and co-ed rooms aren’t allowed either. Thus, with more women already in such rooms the more that only women can be admitted into a facility. The math is fairly easy to figure out, but it’s a strange and unintended consequence nonetheless. 

There is an additional reason there are fewer men in nursing homes and it has nothing to do with simple math.  Fact is, most staff at nursing homes are women. In some instances, male patients are stronger than their professional caregivers and, in my experience, this has led to some poor solutions by the institutions' management.  One client was actually told that she had to take her husband home because staff couldn't handle him; his mental confusion as a result of his dementia had made him physically abusive. Our problem with this solution is of course that his need for care was such that he could not be safely cared for at home, the reason his doctor had prescribed institutional care.  Still other male clients have been medicated into a virtual stupor in order to make them more compliant; meds that without doubt further eroded their health and sadly, eliminated any chance for those precious periods of lucidity.

You can learn more about elder law planning in the Elder Law Planning Practice Center on our website. Be sure to sign up for our free e-newsletter to stay abreast of issues like these that could affect you, your loved ones and your estate planning.

Reference: The New York Times The New Old Age Blog (January 30, 2011) “Fewer Beds For Men Entering Nursing Homes

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