Once an illness or accident causes and individual to require long term care, health and life expectancy dramatically decrease. But could your choice of care effect health and life expectancy even more?
The health of elderly individuals differs depending on the type of care they are receiving and where they are receiving it. According to several studies, elderly individuals living in nursing homes have rated their overall health negatively and have many depressive symptoms. Those living in assisted living facilities have rated their overall health higher than those in nursing homes and show less symptoms of depression. Individuals remaining in their homes have shown the lowest depression rates.
While there was a slight difference in the life expectancy of those in nursing homes compared to assisted living facilities, the most significant predictor of mortality was age, regardless of care choice. However, the life expectancy difference from those remaining in their homes compared to those moving into either type of facility is dramatic. Moving into a long term care facility can decrease life expectancy by as much as 50%.
Why the difference?
The difference in depressive symptoms may be due to the difference in surroundings and situations in which the elderly individual is placed. Remaining in one’s home has the benefit of allowing an individual to retain all of their belongings and continue to socialize with friends as usual. Moving into an assisted living facility generally allows the individual to retain some of their belongings and be exposed to socializing opportunities with others living in the facility and outside the facility. Moving into a nursing home severely limits the number of personal items an individual can retain, and generally has the least opportunities for socialization.
Loss of ability to perform activities of daily life, including bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, and continence, decreases the life expectancy of an individual greatly. This may be due to the negative mental effects stemming from requiring assistance in all aspects of life. There is also a relationship between life expectancy and degree of social engagement. Changes in social patterns overtime also have an affect on the life expectancy of elderly individuals. Because assisted living facilities generally provide more chances for socialization, there may be an advantage over nursing homes.
One important thing to note is the difference in baseline health for these three care options. Elderly individuals entering into nursing homes generally require specific medical care at all hours of the day. Nursing homes have the goal of providing 24-hour medical care and supervision of residents.
Those entering into an assisted living facility generally do not require medical attention on a daily basis, and only require non-medical supports on a regular basis. Assisted living facilities have the goal of providing a safe and healthy environment while preventing social isolation. Those who choose to remain in their homes may have a range of baseline health, and could require a combination of medical and non-medical help.
While there may be slight differences in life expectancy and health of those in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and remaining in their own homes, it is important to note their health before making the care choice.