A new study released in February by the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston with assistance from Al Norman, Mass Home Care, looked at why elders leave home care programs and transfer to nursing homes.
The study finds that many elders have made the switch because they lacked sufficient informal caregiver support, needed 24/7 care, were considered a safety risk, or had medical and functional problems that overwhelmed their caregivers.
Other key findings of the study, Massachusetts’ Home Care Programs and Reasons for Discharge into Nursing Homes, include:
- Doctors and hospitals account for very few referrals for home care services, 2.5 percent and 9.4 percent, respectively.
- Approximately 3,627 elders, or 14.5 percent of those leaving the program, were discharged to nursing homes during fiscal year 2010.
- Over a third of home care clients were taking nine or more medications.
- Twenty-nine percent of home care clients report problems with short-term memory.
- Seventy-five percent of home care clients are not physically able to shop, cook, or feed themselves.
- Eighty-five percent of home care clients do not have any advance medical directives, and 55 percent have no one designated to make health care decisions for them if they become incapacitated.
One of the goals of the study was to examine why home care clients go into nursing facilities, and what types of services could help them avoid entering institutions.
Nursing home patient days in Massachusetts have fallen by nearly 30 percent compared to year 2001. “Mass Home Care, which represents 30 home care agencies across the state, is seeking additional ways to develop services to fill in the ‘care gaps’ in the current range of community options,” said Mass Home Care Executive Director Al Norman.
The Gerontology Institute study included interviews with care managers conducted by gerontology students in the College of Public & Community Service, an analysis of aggregate data for over 42,000 consumers provided by Executive Office of Elder Affairs representing three different home care programs, and a review of journal notes kept by care managers for terminated clients.
According to Norman, who served as Community Partner for the study, “Our goal is to reduce the number of elders who leave home care heading for institutions. To do that we need to learn more about what they need and how we can provide it. This is the first study that really focuses on elders at the point of discharge from home care, and from these data, we will begin to develop better programs to keep elders aging in place. We can continue to spend tax dollars smarter by mastering this issue.”
View the full report at the Gerontology Institute website.