Sources of support for older people after discharge from hospital: 10 years on
Aims of the study. The aim of this research was to find out who supports older people at home after discharge from hospital and if sources of support have changed between the 1980s and the 1990s.
Background. More and more older people are being discharged from hospital earlier and this creates additional pressures on families, community health and social services and the independent care sector. The research was concerned with how sources of support may have changed in a 10-year period.
Methods. A comparison is made of two separate nonrandom samples, taken 10 years apart, of older people following discharge from hospital. Interviews were conducted in participants’ homes to establish levels of dependence and the source of support given in response to the need for help with personal and domestic activities of daily living.
Results. Although limited by the use of relatively small, nonrandom samples, the research found that proportions needing help with domestic activities were higher than those needing help with personal activities of daily living. Although dependence for help with bathing had declined between the 1980s and 1990s, help was still needed with bathing and dressing. Unmet need for help with bathing remained a problem in the 1990s. A growing role for home helps was identified, especially in personal care (bathing and dressing), where support from district nurses had declined. By the 1990s, home helps were doing less cooking and housework, including heavy laundry. Relatives were doing more of most domestic activities except shopping, which was being carried out by home helps.
Conclusions. The paper concludes by arguing that hospitals should consider if pressures to discharge older people more quickly might hinder the discharge planning process and communication between hospital and community sectors.