an older African American woman sits in a nursing home and looks at a nurse in the foreground

Racial Disparities in Nursing Home Care

Research has uncovered racial disparities in nursing home care. While the reasons for these inequalities are not always clear, they present a serious public health problem that deserves attention. Racial disparities in nursing home care include higher rates of nursing home abuse and neglect among nonwhite residents. Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse. Knowing how to spot issues is the best way to keep your loved one safe.

Race as a Factor in Nursing Home Care

Various studies suggest that elderly nursing home residents of color do not always receive the same level of care as white residents.

According to a paper published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), African Americans were more likely to live in nursing homes with lower cleanliness and maintenance ratings.

The study analyzed data from nursing home residents in seven states tracked quarterly from 1998 to 2002. It included facts and statistics from more than 1,500 nursing homes.

In the analysis, four metrics for quality of care were used:

  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Catheters
  • Feeding tubes
  • Physical restraints

The findings included significant disparities in feeding tube use, with 15.9% for blacks and 5.7% for whites. This is worrisome since feeding tubes are likely to be problematic.

Complications from feeding tubes include:

  • Aspiration (food goes to airway and not stomach)
  • Infections
  • Misplacement of the tube
  • Pain
  • Self-extubation (removal of feeding tube by patient)

In another NIH report, minority nursing home residents showed less social engagement than white residents. This study found that nonwhite residents were up to 40% less likely to be highly socially engaged.

Additionally, elderly African American cancer patients are 63% more likely to be left untreated for pain.

“The consensus from the existing literature is that minority elders do not receive nursing home care of comparable quality to whites.”

— National Institutes of Health (NIH)

While it is hard to note the exact reasons for racial disparities in nursing home care, it is believed that geography plays a big role. Studies have noted that minority seniors are more likely to live in urban areas, where nursing homes may have less financial resources..

No matter the reasons for these inequalities, action must be taken to address racial disparities in nursing home care as diversity in facilities increases.

Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Cases at Nursing Homes

The COVID-19 pandemic created widespread tragedy for nursing homes across the country. Unfortunately, minorities living and working in nursing homes have been affected in higher numbers.

A study conducted at the University of Chicago found a consistent relationship between race and COVID-19. The results suggest that nursing homes with the least amount of white residents were over twice as likely to have COVID-19 cases and deaths as those with the most white residents.

Racial disparity in COVID-19 cases at nursing homes held true for both residents and staff alike.

“Along with residents of nursing homes, thousands of nurses and aides have been sickened by the virus in an industry where African-Americans make up an outsize share of the workforce.”

— New York Times

During the pandemic, nursing homes that serve more residents of color reported lower nurse-to-patient ratios, higher deficiencies, and lower levels of care. All of these issues put residents at an increased risk for nursing home abuse and neglect.

Are Minorities at Higher Risk for Nursing Home Abuse?

A separate NIH study was designed to see if any specific characteristics make nursing home residents more likely to be abused. Among other factors, this particular study found that nonwhite residents were more likely to suffer from nursing home abuse or neglect.

Additionally, according to a report published in the Gerontologist, African American seniors may be twice as likely to suffer from psychological abuse as other races. Nursing home residents of color are also five times more likely to be victims of financial exploitation.

If you believe your loved one is suffering from nursing home abuse or neglect, do not delay. Get a free and confidential case review.

What Is Considered Nursing Home Abuse?

Nursing home abuse is when residents are harmed, whether it be intentionally or unintentionally. The harm can cause medical emergencies, emotional trauma, and even death.

Factors that may lead to nursing home abuse include improper training, staff burnout, and understaffing.

There are different types of nursing home abuse, including:

  • Abandonment
  • Emotional abuse
  • Financial exploitation
  • Neglect of a resident’s basic needs
  • Physical abuse
  • Self-neglect
  • Sexual assault

If a nursing home resident passed away after being abused or neglected, it is possible that they suffered a wrongful death.

Get Help for Nursing Home Abuse

Nursing homes are supposed to provide high-quality care for all of their residents — no matter their race or background. Tragically, nursing homes may betray the trust of residents and their loved ones through abuse and neglect.

This mistreatment can cause elderly people to suffer emotionally, physically, and financially. Therefore, it is key to pay close attention to the care your loved one receives.

If you notice warning signs of nursing home abuse or neglect, do not delay.

Contact 911 if your loved one is in immediate danger. You can also contact a nursing home ombudsman (who advocates for residents’ rights) and file a complaint with them.

If you would like to pursue justice and compensation for the harm your loved one suffered through a nursing home abuse lawsuit, get a free case review today.

Nursing Home Abuse Justice Team

Nursing Home Abuse Justice was founded to shine a light on nursing home and elder abuse. Every day, thousands of people in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are abused. Our team helps educate seniors and their loved ones on the common causes, signs and preventions of nursing home abuse. We report on real-world studies and current events from respected news outlets to expose this national problem.

Last modified: March 1, 2022

  1. Beach, S., Schulz, R., Castle, N., & Rosen, J. (2010, July 22). Financial exploitation and psychological mistreatment among older adults: Differences between African Americans and Non-African Americans in a population-based survey. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from

  2. Gebeloff, R. et al (2020, May 21). The striking racial divide in how covid-19 has hit nursing homes. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from

  3. Grabowski, D., & McGuire, T. Black-white disparities in care in nursing homes. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from

  4. Hawes, C.  Elder abuse in residential long-term care settings: What is known and what information is needed? Retrieved February 21, 2022, from

  5. Konetzka, T. (n.d.). Caring for seniors amid the covid-19 crisis … – senate. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from

  6. Li, Y., & Cai, X. (2014, April). Racial and ethnic disparities in social engagement among us nursing home residents. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from

  7. Taylor, J. (2020, July 17). Even in nursing homes, covid-19 racial disparities persist. Retrieved February 21, 2022, from