A nursing facility (NF) is a facility that has met Medicaid certification requirements. A skilled nursing facility (SNF) is one that has met Medicare certification requirements. Facilities that are part of hospitals and intermediate-care facilities for the mentally retarded (ICF-MR) are not included in this discussion.
In 1998, there were about 17,000 nursing facilities containing approximately 1.8 million beds and 1.6 million elderly and disabled residents in the United States. Six states—California, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas—accounted for 37 percent of all nursing-facility beds (over 640,000 beds). Texas had the most nursing-facility beds (122,365). The total number of nursing facilities (and the number of licensed beds) fell slightly between 1998 and 1999. Nationwide, there were 49.7 beds per 1,000 persons age sixty-five or older in 1999, a drop of 4.2 percent from 51.9 beds in 1998. The average size of a nursing facility in 1997 was 107 beds. For the thirty-three largest chain-owned facilities, the average number of beds per facility in 1999 was 109, which was a 5.1 percent drop from the average of 115 beds in 1998.
Data from the 1997 National Nursing Home Survey revealed that approximately 77 percent of all facilities and 84 percent of all beds are certified by both Medicare and Medicaid. In 1997 the occupancy rate in all nursing facilities was about 88 percent, which is 5 to 10 percent, less than during the early 1990s. According to Manton and Gu, "there was a large absolute decline (415,000 persons) in the institutional population 1994 to 1999" (p. 3). Over 66 percent of the facilities are located in the Midwest and southern regions of the nation, and about 61 percent of the facilities are located in metropolitan areas.
The majority of nursing-facility beds in 1997 were owned by for-profit organizations (67 percent), followed by not-for-profit organizations (26.1 percent), with government-owned homes accounting for about 8 percent of all facilities. The consolidation of the nursing-home industry is reflected by the fact that between 1998 and 1999 the number of licensed beds in the nation's thirty-three largest nursing facility chains increased by almost 2 percent. These chains owned approximately 27 percent of all beds nationwide in 2000 with about 56 percent of all nursing homes in the United States being part of a chain.
A significant change in nursing facilities has been the addition of what has been called special care or subacute care units within nursing facilities. These units "have emerged in an effort to meet the needs of subgroups of residents such as those with Alzheimer's disease or with relatively short-term post-acute needs" (Wunderlich and Kohler, p. 22). The number of dementia-specific special care units has also grown and "as of 1996, nearly one in four nursing homes had at least one organized dementia care unit, wing, or program" (NIA, p. 41). As a result of this growth, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now track information on special units for residents with Alzheimer's disease. In addition, the Alzheimer's Association has developed specific guidelines for special care units (SCUs) and the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has developed SCU standards. These types of units continue to be viewed by operators, staff, and family members as a better alternative to traditional nursing-facility care. Because of the lack of a standard definition for SCUs, the National Institute on Aging has supported a number of projects to examine the nature and effectiveness of these units. One of the significant outcomes of this research has been the development and testing of a method for classifying SCUs, which has allowed for a more effective comparison of the care provided across different types of SCUs.