The well-documented aging of the U.S. population, particularly among those aged 85 years and over, is resulting in a significant increase in the number of people needing long-term care (LTC) services. By 2050, the number of people in the United States who will need LTC services is expected to reach 27 million (2).
Although most people who need LTC services receive them in their own homes, personal care received outside both the home and traditional nursing facilities is an important and growing service option. This is especially the case for people who can no longer live alone but do not require the skilled level of care provided by a nursing home. This type of care—broadly referred to here as residential care—includes congregate settings that provide both housing and supportive services. Supportive services typically include protective oversight and help with instrumental activities of daily living, such as transportation, meal preparation, and taking medications; and more basic activities of daily living, such as eating, dressing, and bathing.
Current national data collection efforts are limited in their ability to estimate the size and characteristics of these residential care settings as well as the number and characteristics of residents they serve. The Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, the National Long-Term Care Survey, and the Health and Retirement Survey cover the residential care population to varying degrees, but their small sample sizes of persons in residential care facilities limit the conduct of in-depth analyses by type of residential care setting or specific subpopulations of residents (3).
The American Community Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau now includes some residential care facilities, but because it is a population-based survey, it cannot produce national estimates of the number of residential care facilities in the United States.
According to data from the 2004 National Nursing Home Survey (NNHS), there were an estimated 16,100 nursing homes with 1,492,200 residents. However, no national data collection effort similar to NNHS exists for residential care settings and their residents. NSRCF complements other federal surveys and fills a significant data gap about a major portion of the long-term care population.
The primary purpose of NSRCF is to produce a general database on residential care facilities that researchers and policymakers can use to address a wide variety of LTC issues. Among the most important specific objectives for NSRCF are to provide national estimates of: (1) the number of residential care facilities operating in the United States; (2) the number of residents receiving care; and (3) the characteristics of both the facilities and their residents.