Entry into residential aged care largely preventable
13 April 2010
Lifestyle, social and health factors, such as being underweight, having inadequate nutrition or having low social activity, have been shown to be significant contributing factors to the entry of older people into residential aged care.
Professor Hal Kendig, from the Ageing, Work and Health Research Unit in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Sydney, was the lead author in this article on a longitudinal study in which 1000 Australians aged 65 and over for were tracked for 12 years to determine why some ended up in residential aged care.
The most significant factors in determining whether someone would enter residential care were older age, cognitive impairment, having a low body mass index (BMI) as well as certain gender specific factors. This includes for women, never being married and being underweight, and for men inadequate nutrition and medical conditions.
"Changeable and improvable lifestyle factors such as physical activity, nutrition and social engagement are important because they influence overall health and whether you are able to function in daily living," said Professor Kendig.
Understanding all the contributing factors as to why some people move into residential care was essential to developing intervention strategies to help older people stay in their own homes as well as in improving their quality of life, he said.
The study found that out of the 1000 participants only 19 percent ended up in residential care during the 12 years, underscoring the importance of community care relative to residential care.
"This study shows there are good reasons we should invest in better health promotion throughout life because it improves health and wellbeing and can reduce demand for expensive residential care."
This study was part of the Melbourne Longitudinal Surveys on Healthy Ageing led by Professor Browning (Monash University) and Professor Kendig (University of Sydney). It was funded by the NHMRC.
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