The relation and relevance of the study lies in the fact that it would be helpful in reducing health-care costs for older adults. The answer is to provide the help at home.
Elders who lived alone without home assistance were more likely to require hospitalization. After a few weeks of help with daily tasks, however, the need for health care dropped off, implying that a little help with the basics goes a long way.
"While such essential care would not include the cost of visits to the doctor, our data suggest that people who receive additional assistance would be less likely to be hospitalized, and that could conceivably allow us to keep our health care-costs down while still providing for our frail elders," said Purdue nursing professor Laura P. Sands "As our population ages, there will be more need to find economical ways to care for this group, and adequate home-based care could be both less expensive and more effective for some than full-time nursing-home care."
This report can be found in the Feb. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Sands' team studied 2,943 frail older people enrolled at 13 sites nation wide in the Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly. The program provides medical and social services that also meets the daily living needs of those eligible for nursing homes.
According to Sands, "Nearly 30 percent of adults aged 75 and older have one or more disabilities in performing basic activities of daily living. Additionally, of the more than 2.3 million older adults with severe disability, 84 percent receive some form of public health insurance. We wanted to find out what might be done to help this group more effectively. People who have difficulty with bathing, dressing and walking across a room require our health-care system to a greater extent. Those who have trouble performing such activities have higher rates of hospitalizations, longer hospital stays, and more physician visits than those with no disabilities."
But after six weeks of receiving the program's services, the number of hospital admissions for those who had been living with unmet needs significantly declined, becoming similar to the admission rates of those who had their needs met before enrolment.
"What this suggests is that if a homemaker or personal assistant helps these frail elders for a few hours a day, they would be less likely to experience medical conditions such as hunger, dehydration, falls and skin problems that occur when disabled older adults do not receive needed help with daily tasks." Sands said. "As our government is under increasing pressure to develop fiscally feasible solutions for caring for disabled older people, we feel providing disabled elders with adequate home-based care should receive further attention. We're talking about helping people stay relatively independent as long as possible. That's what many elderly people and their younger family member's desire.", was the way she summarised it up.