Examination of demographic trends indicates that the worldwide population is progressively ageing. It is expected that such longevity will be associated with an increase in morbidity and demand for long-term residential care. This review examines whether there is evidence that physical rehabilitation benefits older people in long-term care.
To evaluate physical rehabilitation interventions directed at improving physical function among older people in long-term care.
We searched the trials registers of the following Cochrane entities: Stroke Group (searched March 2008), Effective Practice and Organisation of Care Group (searched August 2006) and the Rehabilitation and Related Therapies Field, (searched August 2006). In addition, we searched 17 relevant electronic databases including the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library 2007, Issue 3), MEDLINE (1966 to 1 October 2007), EMBASE (1980 to 1 October 2007), CINAHL (1982 to 1 October 2007), AMED (1985 to 1 October 2007), PsycINFO (1967 to 1 October 2007) and PEDro (searched 1 October 2007). We also searched trials and research registers and conference proceedings, checked reference lists, and contacted authors and researchers in the field and other relevant Cochrane entities.
Randomised studies comparing a rehabilitation intervention designed to maintain or improve physical function with either no intervention or an alternative intervention in older people aged 60 years or over who have permanent long-term care residency.
Data collection and analysis
Two authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data. We contacted study authors for additional information.
Forty-nine trials involving 3611 participants were included. On average, 74 (range 12 to 468) participants were randomised into trials at baseline. Of studies which reported age, the overall mean age was 82 years (range of 69 to 89). Most interventions lasted less than 20 weeks, and comprised approximately three 30 to 45-minute group sessions per week. Twelve trials conducted post-intervention follow up (maximum one year). Most often a 'usual care' control group was used, but social activity and alternative interventions also featured. The primary outcome, daily activity restriction, was reported by 36 trials. A range of secondary outcomes are also reported.
Provision of physical rehabilitation interventions to long-term care residents is worthwhile and safe, reducing disability with few adverse events.
Most trials reported improvement in physical condition. However, there is insufficient evidence to make recommendations about the best intervention, improvement sustainability and cost-effectiveness.