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Predicting Nursing Facility Residents' Quality of Life Using External Indicators


  • Howard B. Degenholtz,

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    • Address correspondence to Howard B. Degenholtz, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management, Graduate School of Public Health, Center for Bioethics and Health Law, University of Pittsburgh, 3708 5th Avenue, Suite 300, Pittsburgh, PA 15213. Rosalie A. Kane, Ph.D., Professor, and Robert L. Kane, MD, Professor, are with the Division of Health Services Research and Policy, University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis, MN. Boris Bershadsky, Ph.D., Director, is with the Department Orthopaedic Surgery/A41, Orthopaedic Clinical Research Center, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH. Kristen C. Kling, Ph.D., Associate Professor, is with the Department of Psychology, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN.

  • Rosalie A. Kane,

  • Robert L. Kane,

  • Boris Bershadsky,

  • Kristen C. Kling


Purpose. A newly developed brief measure of nursing facility (NF) resident self-reported quality of life (QOL) has been proposed for inclusion in a modified version of the minimum data set (MDS). There is considerable interest in determining whether it is possible to develop indicators of QOL that are more convenient and less expensive than direct, in-person interviews with residents.

Design and Methods. QOL interview data from 2,829 residents living in 101 NFs using a 14-item version of a longer instrument were merged with data from the MDS and the Online Survey and Certification Automated Record (OSCAR). Bivariate and multivariate hierarchical linear modeling were used to assess the association of QOL with potential resident and facility level indicators.

Results. Resident and facility level indicators were associated with self-reported QOL in the expected direction. At the individual resident level, QOL is negatively associated with physical function, visual acuity, continence, being bedfast, depression, conflict in relationships, and positively associated with social engagement. At the facility level, QOL is negatively associated with citations for failing to accommodate resident needs or providing a clean, safe environment. The ratio of activities staff to residents is positively associated with QOL. This study did not find an association between QOL and either use of restraints or nurse staff levels. Approximately 9 percent of the total variance in self-reported QOL can be attributed to differences among facilities; 91 percent can be attributed to differences among residents. Resident level indicators explained about 4 percent of the variance attributable to differences among residents, and facility factors explained 49 percent of the variance attributable to differences among NFs. However, the different variables explained only 10 percent of the variance in self-reported QOL.

Implications. A brief self-report measure of NF resident QOL is consistently associated with measures that can be constructed from extant data sources. However, the level of prediction possible from these data sources does not justify reliance on external indicators of resident QOL for policy purposes.