Vast improvements in the quality of life of the elderly can be achieved by bringing nursing and physiotherapy teams into residential care homes for older people. According to an intensive two-year pilot scheme undertaken in the United Kingdom, not only will this improve quality of life for patients, but hospital admissions will also fall as a result.
Governments across Europe are searching for ways to better cope with, and improve the day-to-day lives of an ageing population. A two-year pilot scheme undertaken in the Bath & North East Somerset area is pointing the way forward to a method of aged care that delivers both improvements in quality of life and in economical savings.
This research was conducted jointly by the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) and the University of Warwick, UK and their results were published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
The researchers followed the two-year pilot scheme which involved 131 long term residents living in a residential care home. Over the course of two years, nursing and physiotherapy care were provided to the residents. Also, thanks to a special training programme, the nursing skills of designated care home staff were developed by a dedicated team.
This team, also referred to as the 'in-reach team', was able to detect and handle illnesses without the input of residents. If one considers that many residents suffer from conditions such as dementia, which means that they are unable to communicate their symptoms to staff, such an ability is especially important.
As a result of these efforts, over EUR 46 a week per person could be saved through lower hospital admissions and delayed transfer to nursing homes. This is in contrast to the EUR 3.38 it would cost to implement such a programme on a weekly basis.
These results amount to huge savings for local authorities. 'During the two-year study, between 80 and nearly 200 potential hospital admissions were averted, and 20 early discharges made possible,' commented Professor Ala Szczepura of Warwick University. 'Beyond the clear benefits cited by residents and staff, we estimate that investment in such a service could produce savings of up to a third of a million euros per annum to the Primary Care Trust and Local Authority,' he concluded.
According to another researcher, Deidre Wild, 'Allowing people to remain in their care homes by bringing in specialist care during episodes of illness was greatly valued by both residents and staff. Staying in a familiar environment gave care home residents a greater sense of security during challenging times.'
The results of this study may soon mean an end to faceless aged care facilities which exist across Europe and in their place, the development of a more human aged care facility that puts quality of life first.