The effect of equipment usage and residual task difficulty on use of personal assistance, days in bed, and nursing home placement.
OBJECTIVES: To determine whether residual difficulty in functioning in spite of equipment use is linked with increased use of personal assistance. DESIGN: Longitudinal. Two waves of the Asset and Health Dynamics Among the Oldest Old (AHEAD) database were used to test the effect of residual difficulty on hours of personal assistance and bed days at Wave 1 on hours of personal assistance, bed days, and nursing home placement at Waves 1 and 2. SETTING: A nationally representative setting of community-dwelling persons aged 70 and older and their spouses, regardless of age at Wave 1 AHEAD. There was movement of some respondents into nursing homes by the Wave 2 interview. PARTICIPANTS: Respondents to the AHEAD survey, N=8,222 at Wave 1. MEASUREMENTS: The dependent variables were hours of personal assistance in the month before the AHEAD survey (Waves 1 and 2), number of days in month before the survey in which the person did not get out of bed (Waves 1 and 2), and residence in a nursing home at Wave 2. The key explanatory variable was a mutually exclusive (four category) variable that specified whether there was residual difficulty (yes/no) in indoor mobility in spite of using equipment to aid specifically with indoor mobility. The four-category variable was defined by the four categories created by a cross-tabulation of equipment use (yes/no) and difficulty with indoor mobility (yes/no). A similar four-category variable was also defined for transferring in the home. RESULTS: In cross section, equipment users with residual difficulty reported more hours of personal assistance in the case of indoor mobility impairment and were more likely to have some hours of personal assistance than those without residual difficulty with indoor mobility and transferring. Longitudinally, those with residual difficulty at Wave 1 were more likely to need some personal assistance hours at Wave 2 (odds ratio=1.67, 95% confidence interval= 1.23-2.26 for indoor mobility). For transferring, those with residual difficulty had 43 more hours of personal assistance per month (P=.001) than those for whom equipment resolved their disability. Residual disability was linked to more bed days for users of indoor mobility and transferring equipment, but it was not predictive of nursing home placement by Wave 2. CONCLUSION: Equipment for indoor mobility or transfers apparently resolves difficulty for some users of the equipment but not for others. Residual task difficulty in spite of equipment for indoor mobility and transferring is linked with worse outcomes, including increased dependency on personal assistance and more days in bed. This shows that more attention is needed to determine whether equipment prescribed is appropriate for a patient's difficulty and that follow-up assessment is crucial after equipment is prescribed.
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