FRIDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Meals delivered to older
adults help them avoid costly and unnecessary nursing home care,
according to a new study.
Researchers from Brown University found states that invest in
these programs under the Older Americans Act are successful in
helping seniors remain in their homes.
"Despite efforts to re-balance long-term care, there are still many nursing home residents who have the functional capacity to live in a less restrictive environment," wrote study authors Kali Thomas and Vincent Mor, both gerontology researchers. "States that have invested in their community-based service networks, particularly home-delivered meals, have proportionally fewer of these people than do those states that have not."
After analyzing spending and data on more than 16,000 nursing
homes between 2000 and 2009, the researchers found the proportion
of nursing home residents who did not require most of the services
of their facility, or low-care residents, fell from about 18
percent to less than 13 percent.
After taking into account state spending on Medicaid-sponsored
home and community-based services and other long-term care market
factors, the researchers found home-based meals were the only
statistically significant factor among Older Americans Act programs
that influenced differences in the number of low-care nursing home
State to state, however, the percentage of low-care nursing home
residents varies significantly since funding for programs that
provide home-delivered meals to seniors also differs. The
researchers calculated states could reduce their percentage of
low-care nursing home residents compared to the national average by
one point for every $25 per year per senior above the national
average they spend on these programs.
The study is published in
Health Services Research.
"My 98-year-old granny was able to remain at home, independent in her house until she died, and we have always, even before I did this research, attributed that to Meals on Wheels," Thomas, who is also a Rhode Island Meals on Wheels volunteer, said in a university news release. "She lived four hours away from any family and refused to leave her house. We had comfort in knowing that every day someone was in her house to see how things are."
The study authors said drivers who deliver meals are able to
observe and monitor the environment in which the seniors are
living. They also report when seniors do not respond to a delivery,
which serves as an additional safety measure.
Home-delivered meals served more than 868,000 seniors in fiscal
2010 and account for the majority of Older Americans Act spending,
the researchers noted. Skilled nursing care, they added, also
played a role in keeping older people out of nursing homes.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides more
the Older Americans Act.