Aim. This paper reports a study comparing the characteristics of patients who use home care services and those who are cared for in nursing homes, and identifying the factors that influence the use of these care settings.
Background. The increase in the functionally dependent older population has led to an increase in the number of nursing homes and home care agencies. It has become clear that, rather than disputing which is the better of these options, it would be better to determine the characteristics of patients who use the two long-term care services. Gaining an understanding of the unique characteristics of patients who are cared for by home care agencies and those who are cared for in nursing homes will be imperative for reforming and developing long-term care systems.
Method. The research model was based on the Anderson Model of Health Services Utilization. Interviews were conducted with 99 stroke survivors from two home care agencies and four nursing homes, and their family members, between May and December 2001.
Results. The patient characteristics that predicted greater use of home care rather than nursing home services were: being married, poor physical function, impaired cognitive function, higher rates of comorbidity, various medical complications, and/or number of catheters (e.g. urinary catheter, naso-gastric tube).
Conclusion. Contrary to the findings of previous studies conducted in countries with ageing populations, our findings indicate that in South Korea home care agencies, rather than nursing homes, provide care for severely impaired patients. This may be due to differences between countries in their long-term care systems and cultural attitudes toward end-of-life care. Our results will contribute to the development or reformation of long-term care systems in countries with ageing populations, and to the development of strategies for increasing access to these services.