Care homes need to be equipped to meet the increasing support needs of residents, according to a recent study published in Age and Ageing. The study, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), contained analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing and interviews with 254 individuals who moved from the community into a care home to measure changes in health and functioning over a 13 year period (2002 – 2015).

Significant increases were found in:

  • The total number of health conditions
  • Deficits in activities of daily living (ADL), including ‘instrumental’ ADL
  • The proportion of individuals with high blood pressure
  • Memory problems (ever diagnosed with a memory-related disease or dementia)

Non-significant increases were also found in the proportion of care home entrants with cancer, lung disease, heart disease and arthritis.

Crucially, these increases in support needs were not an artefact of an ageing population. In other words, the selection of residents into the care home is changing towards those with declining health functions. This also implies that more people with high level needs are continuing to live in their own homes.

This has clear implications towards the provision of care services, but it also highlights a lack of data available nationally to monitor activity in the sector. A move towards electronic care planning, including building a structured, clinically coded electronic health record for social care, is needed now more than ever to enable feedback of care provision, continuous improvement of care quality, and interoperability between NHS and social care services.

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