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Health promotion for frail older home care clients


  • Maureen Markle-Reid PhD MScN RN,

  • Robin Weir PhD RN,

  • Gina Browne PhD RN,

  • Jacqueline Roberts MSC RN,

  • Amiram Gafni PhD,

  • Sandra Henderson BScN MSc CHE RN

Maureen Markle-Reid,
School of Nursing,
McMaster University,
1200 Main Street West,
HSC 3N25F Hamilton,
Ontario L8N 3Z5,


Aim.  This paper reports a study evaluating the comparative effects and costs of a proactive nursing health promotion intervention in addition to usual home care for older people compared with usual home care services alone.

Background.  An ageing population, budget constraints and technological advances in many countries have increased the pressure on home care resources. The result is a shift in nursing services from health promotion to meet the more pressing need for postacute care. For frail older people with long-term needs, these changes combine to create a fragmented system of health service delivery, characterized by providing nursing on demand rather than proactively.

Methods.  A two-armed, single-blind, randomized controlled trial was carried out with older people ≥75 years and eligible for personal support services through a home care programme in Ontario, Canada. Participants were randomly allocated either to usual home care (control) or to a nursing (experimental) group. In addition to usual home care, the nursing group received a health assessment combined with regular home visits or telephone contacts, health education about management of illness, coordination of community services, and use of empowerment strategies to enhance independence. The data were collected in 2001–2002.

Results.  Of the 288 older people who were randomly allocated at baseline, 242 (84%) completed the study (120 nursing group; 122 control group). Proactively providing older people with nursing health promotion, compared with providing nursing services on-demand, resulted in better mental health functioning (P = 0·009), a reduction in depression (P = 0·009), and enhanced perceptions of social support (P = 0·009) at no additional cost from a societal perspective.

Conclusions.  Home based nursing health promotion, proactively provided to frail older people with chronic health needs, enhances quality of life while not increasing the overall costs of health care. The results underscore the need to re-invest in nursing services for health promotion for older clients receiving home care.