Aim. This paper reports a study comparing the socio-demographic data, quality of life (QoL) and symptoms of older people living at home with and without help.
Background. Despite growing numbers of older people worldwide, little is know about the differences between older people receiving help to live at home and those not receiving this, especially as regards QoL and symptoms. Not only symptoms but also dependency on others per se may reduce older people's QoL. From a nursing perspective, knowledge about such issues is important because the impact of symptoms may be reducible, even when diseases cannot be cured.
Method. A postal questionnaire was sent to an age-stratified random sample of 1866 people aged 75 years or over. Of the respondents (n = 1248) 448 received help and 793 did not.
Results. The group receiving help had a significantly higher age, more women, more people widowed and living alone, more children, a higher number of self-reported diseases and symptoms, greater inability to remain alone at home and lower QoL. Loneliness, depressed mood and abdominal pain were significantly related to low QoL in both groups. Living alone, not being able to remain alone at home without help, and fatigue were also predictive of low QoL among those receiving help, and number of diseases and sleep problems in those without.
Conclusion. Receiving help with daily living seems to be significantly related to low QoL and goes along with a high number of symptoms that need to be considered in nursing care. Through regular visits, systematic assessment and intervention, especially focusing on older people's symptoms, nurses may contribute to improved QoL for this section of the population.