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The Importance of Maintaining Quality of Life Among Older Adults Receiving Long-Term Care

Long-term services and supports (LTSS) in homes, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes are used by more than 6 million older adults in the United States.  By 2030, this number has been predicted to double. LTSS provides assistance and support with basic and imperative activities of daily living (such as bathing and cooking) and can be given in various settings (like nursing homes and assisted living facilities). Currently, LTSS are increasing in growth, but is a “system” that is also fragmented and costly with significant and ongoing concerns about quality.

A recent study aimed to gain a deeper understanding about changes in a variety of dimensions of health and quality of life among older adults under LTSS over time and in different settings. Researchers found that older adults’ quality of life ratings decrease over time, but were higher among those with fewer depressive symptoms, greater general physical function, better emotional status, and more social support. Ratings were also higher among older adults with more deficits in activities of daily living. Ratings were highest among those who were provided LTSS from assisted living facilities, followed by nursing homes, then home and community-based services. Ratings commonly decreased over time among those with more cognitive disability and increased over time among those with less cognitive disability.

These findings help elucidate what is considered the most important result of older adults receiving LTSS: quality of life. Gaining a deep understanding about the relationships between multiple care settings and quality of life over time and directly from those who receive LTSS exemplifies a crucial step in improving care processes and outcomes of these vulnerable individuals.