Nursing homes not burden to system, says researcher

New research from the University of Alberta disputes the belief that residents of long-term care facilities--usually the oldest and sickest people--are the biggest burden to the health-care system. Not only are long-term care residents the least expensive senior group, but their hospital visits decline once they are admitted into nursing homes.

Dr. Donna Wilson from the University of Alberta's Faculty of Nursing studied 12 years of long-term care (LTC) resident data from 1988 to 2000 provided by Alberta Health and Wellness--the biggest release of data the province has ever given out. She is presenting the findings of this research at a workshop entitled, "End-of-Life Care in Continuing Care Facilities," on Tuesday, Aug. 19.

"People often think of long-term facilities as places of doom and gloom where you go to die, but that's not true--they're getting great care," said Wilson. "The group in long-term care are cheaper than any other senior group."

Wilson studied LTC residents, home care recipients and a random sample of the well elderly. She found that LTC residents had the lowest rates of health services use of the three groups. Home care recipients had the highest utilization rates, followed by the well elderly.

Although people who entered LTC are generally quite old--the average age is 82--and sick, they were not using the hospitals more. "Something very magical is happening in long-term care," said Wilson, adding residents are paying as much as $40 a day to live in the facilities. "We've looked at this a number of times to try to learn why is there such a change to these frail, sick, elderly people once they're put into long-term care and the biggest reason is they are receiving primary health care around the clock.

"They go from being confused and managing a chronic illness on their own at home to where they are receiving constant care, get early attention if they are sick, get three square meals a day, are supervised, li

Contact: Phoebe Dey
University of Alberta

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