Disability researchers identify barriers to independent living

03/15/04

Researchers at the Disability Statistics Center at the University of California at San Francisco report that about 3.3 million community-residing adults need assistance from another person with two or more activities of daily living (ADLs). Of these, almost one million people need more help than they are receiving - particularly those who live alone.

The study, the results of which have been published in the March issue of The Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences (Vol. 59B, No.2), is the first to estimate how much additional help people need. These necessary ADLs include bathing, dressing, getting into or out of bed or a chair, toileting, eating and other activities that are required to maintain their homes, such as shopping and preparing meals.

Most of these adults receive some help, but not enough to meet their needs. "Individuals who need personal assistance with two or more of the five basic ADLs and whose needs are unmet have a shortfall of 16.6 hours of help per week," said lead author Dr. Mitchell P. LaPlante. Joining him on the project were Drs. H. Stephen Kaye, Taewoon Kang, and Charlene Harrington.

Among adults whose assistance needs are not fully met, people living alone fare worse than those who live with others. Those living by themselves receive only 56 percent of the help they need, while those living with family members or friends receive 80 percent of the hours of help they need.

Having unmet needs is linked with numerous adverse consequences, including discomfort, weight loss, dehydration, falls, burns, and dissatisfaction with the help they do receive. As a result, these people are at risk of being forced to leave their homes and move into institutions, such as nursing homes.

The report also states that unmet need among people living alone is more an issue for the elderly, since two-thirds of those living alone and needing more help are age 65 or older.

The team concludes, however, that the reduction, if not the elimination, of unmet need is a financially achievable goal for the nation and one that long-term policy should focus on. The study was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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