Who lives where and does it matter? Changes in the health profiles of older people living in long term care and the community over two decades in a high income country
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AbstractBACKGROUND: There have been fundamental shifts in the attitude towards, access to and nature of long term care in high income countries. The proportion and profile of the older population living in such settings varies according to social, cultural, and economic characteristics as well as governmental policies. Changes in the profiles of people in different settings are important for policy makers and care providers. Although details will differ, how change occurs across time is important to all, including lower and middle income countries developing policies themselves. Here change is examined across two decades in England.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: Using the two Cognitive Function and Ageing Studies (CFAS I: 77% response, CFAS II: 56% response), two population based studies of older people carried out in the same areas conducted two decades apart, the study diagnosis of dementia using the Automated Geriatric Examination for Computer Assisted Taxonomy, health and wellbeing were examined, focusing on long term care. The proportion of individuals with three or more health conditions increased for everyone living in long term care between CFAS I (47.6%, 95% CI: 42.3-53.1) and CFAS II (62.7%, 95% CI: 54.8-70.0) and was consistently higher in those without dementia compared to those with dementia in both studies. Functional impairment measured by activities of daily living increased in assisted living facilities from 48% (95% CI: 44%-52%) to 67% (95% CI: 62%-71%).
CONCLUSIONS: Health profiles of residents in long term care have changed dramatically over time. Dementia prevalence and reporting multiple health conditions have increased. Receiving care in the community puts pressure on unpaid carers and formal services; these results have implications for policies about supporting people at home as well as for service provision within long term care including quality of care, health management, cost, and the development of a skilled, caring, and informed workforce.