The average life expectancy of a person in a nursing home is 2.2 years after admission to nursing home care. This number varies between individuals. It isn’t a prediction for any single senior’s treatment outcomes, but an average across all nursing home admissions.

How Does a Nursing Home Fit Into Senior Care?

Nursing homes are one level in the spectrum of senior care. The intensity of supervision and medical interventions seniors receive in these long-term care facilities is significantly higher than it would be in an assisted living community, though it’s usually less intensive than the comfort care and pain management work done in hospice care.

Seniors with dementia may do best under the 24-hour supervision of a memory care facility. These care categories aren’t mutually exclusive, and many assisted living communities and nursing homes offer Alzheimer’s care and end-of-life services for their residents. Being a medically oriented standard of care, nursing homes typically provide intensive physical and occupational therapy, medication management and post-operative rehab services.

What Affects Life Expectancy in Nursing Homes?

The 2.2 years of living seniors average after admission to a nursing home isn’t a reflection on the level of care seniors get when they’re in long-term care. Rather, it speaks to the serious nature of many conditions that bring seniors to a nursing home in the first place. Seniors are commonly admitted to a nursing home during their recovery from a heart attack or a stroke or during the period immediately following a life-threatening injury, such as a fall.

When a major illness or injury severe enough to merit admission to a residential nursing program happens, it’s more likely that complications will develop or other illnesses or injuries will occur, which can cause complications in the recovery process or require readmission to the hospital. All these factors have a negative impact on life expectancy for anyone going through them, and nursing homes tend to be the places where people are treated for some of the most serious conditions associated with age.

Seniors Can Thrive in Nursing Home Care

Despite the rough average numbers, many seniors do well in a nursing home environment. Short-term stays, especially for a brief recovery from surgery or a minor injury, can do a world of good for seniors who need physical or occupational therapy. Even when a senior’s health is critically endangered, the 24-hour care environment a nursing home provides gives many their best shot at recovery and many years of active living after their stay ends.