Skip to Content

Racial Disparities In Nursing Home Care

Racial Disparities In Nursing Home Care


Nursing homes are essential. They provide areas for the elderly and disabled to receive the care that they need around the clock. The reality is that many families have to rely on nursing homes for a variety of reasons, and that is okay. Unfortunately, the care that individuals receive in nursing homes can vary based on their race. Racial inequities show up in every area of life in the US, including nursing home care. Here, we want to discuss how race creates disparities in nursing home care, as well as what you can do if you think your loved one has been treated differently in a nursing home due to their race.

Intersectional Elder Abuse: Racial Disparities

In the United States, we know that there are various forms of discrimination. We also know that elder abuse occurs much more often than most people realize. It should not come as a surprise, then, to learn that discrimination also plays a role in elder abuse. Various studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between the race of people who suffer as victims of elder abuse in California and throughout the US. When elder abuse directly intersects with racial discrimination, this is a form of intersectional elder abuse.

Limited Resources for Minorities in Nursing Homes

Data has shown us that racial minorities tend to reside in nursing homes that have limited financial resources, an elevated number of deficiencies, and lower staffing levels. According to data from one study, only 9% of white nursing home residents live in what is considered to be “lower-tier” nursing homes. This is compared to an estimated 40% of black nursing home residents that live in these facilities.

The quality of nursing home care is measured based on a variety of factors. These factors include staffing levels, bedsore rates, the general health and safety of the population, and infection control policies. If a nursing home fails to meet state or federal guidelines, they will be considered deficient. The deficiency rate in nursing homes with a high concentration of minority residents is around 9.4%, while the deficiency rate for nursing homes with residents who are white is much lower.

Racial Disparities Continue

How long will the racial disparities in nursing homes continue?

Studies have shown that a two-tiered system of nursing home quality has developed in the US. This largely has to do with the fact that minority nursing home residents usually rely on Medicaid, which is government-funded, to pay for nursing homes and long-term care more than white residents. Reimbursement rates through Medicaid are lower than private sector insurance and self-pay returns.

However, money is not the only factor in these situations. We also have to understand that discrimination significantly affects the care that minorities receive. Discrimination is prevalent in all aspects of our lives, and it does not stop at a nursing home’s doors. There are a variety of professionals who work in a nursing home setting, including physical therapists, nurses, general assistants, and more. If any of the individuals working in a nursing home exhibit discriminatory behaviors, this can lead to inadequate patient care.

The discussion of racial disparity in nursing homes has significantly ramped up over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the infection rates continued to rise over the entirety of 2020 and into early 2021, data has shown us that racial and ethnic disparities were prevalent when it came to infections and death rates in nursing homes.