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Does an Exercise and Incontinence Intervention Save Healthcare Costs in a Nursing Home Population?

Authors

  • John F. Schnelle PhD,

    1. Veterans Administration Hospital, Sepulveda, California;
    2. Borun Center for Gerontological Research, Los Angeles Jewish Home for the
      Aging, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California;
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  • Kanika Kapur PhD,

    1. RAND
      Corporation, Santa Monica, California;
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  • Cathy Alessi MD,

    1. Veterans Administration Hospital, Sepulveda, California;
    2. Borun Center for Gerontological Research, Los Angeles Jewish Home for the
      Aging, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California;
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  • Dan Osterweil MD,

    1. Borun Center for Gerontological Research, Los Angeles Jewish Home for the
      Aging, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California;
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  • John G. Beck MD,

    1. Borun Center for Gerontological Research, Los Angeles Jewish Home for the
      Aging, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California;
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  • Nahla R. Al-Samarrai MA,

    1. Borun Center for Gerontological Research, Los Angeles Jewish Home for the
      Aging, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California;
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  • Joseph G. Ouslander MD

    1. Atlanta VA Rehabilitation
      Research and Development Center, Decatur, Georgia; and
    2. Division of
      Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology and Wesley Woods Center of Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.
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Address correspondence to John F. Schnelle, PhD, JHA/UCLA Borun Center, 7150 Tampa Avenue, Reseda, CA 91335. E-mail: jschnell@ucla.edu

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: To determine whether an intervention that combines low-intensity exercise and incontinence care offsets some of its costs by reducing the incidence of selected health conditions in nursing home residents.

DESIGN: Randomized, controlled trial with the incidence and costs of selected, acute conditions compared between a 6-month baseline and an 8-month intervention phase.

SETTING: Four nursing homes.

PARTICIPANTS: One hundred ninety incontinent, long-stay nursing home residents.

INTERVENTION: Low-intensity, functionally oriented exercise and incontinence care were provided every 2 hours from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. for 5 days a week for 8 months.

MEASUREMENTS: Predefined acute conditions hypothesized to be related to physical inactivity, incontinence, or immobility were abstracted from residents' medical records by blinded observers during a 6-month baseline period and throughout the 8-month intervention. Conditions included those in the dermatological, genitourinary, gastrointestinal, respiratory and cardiovascular systems; falls; pain; and psychiatric and nutritional disturbances. Costs were determined using Current Procedural Terminology Center and Medicare allowable cost reimbursement at a rate of 80%.

RESULTS: The intervention group had significantly better functional outcomes than the control group (strength, mobility endurance, urinary and fecal incontinence) and a reduction of 10% in the incidence of the acute conditions, which was not significant. There were no significant differences between groups in the cost of assessing and treating these acute conditions between baseline and intervention.

CONCLUSION: The intervention, which is consistent with federal and clinical practice guidelines, significantly improved functional outcomes but did not reduce the incidence and costs of selected acute health conditions. The cost of implementing these labor-intensive interventions for frail nursing home residents will have to be justified based on functional and quality-of-life outcomes and are unlikely to be offset by savings in medical care costs in this population.

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