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UVic researchers get funding to examine how seniors navigate long-term care system

Aug 16 2012

Researchers at the University of Victoria have received more than $330,000 to study how seniors navigate the long-term care system.

Margaret Penning and Denise Cloutier will analyze data from the Fraser Health Authority to see how people move from their homes into hospital, assisted living or residential care.

Penning, a sociology professor, said the research would begin by looking for patterns in the data, which does not include people's names or identifying information.

"How many people go from home care to assisted living to residential care? How many people go directly into residential care?"

From there, the project will look at the factors that influence those patterns, such as age, gender, marital status, income, and whether people live close to their children. Researchers will also look at the role that health factors, such as cognitive impairment, play in determining how people transition through the long-term care system.

"How does hospitalization play out in terms of the transitions?" Penning said.

"If people go into hospital, does that make it more or less likely that they'll move into residential care? And how often do they move from hospital care back to their own homes?"

Penning said there has been a lot of research about the individual stops that an older person makes in the long-term care system, but few studies have looked at how people move through the entire process.

"At this point, we actually know very little about transitions in care, which is extraordinary when you think about it," Penning said.

"We can't guarantee that our research will be used, but, really, what we see as coming out of this research is the opportunity for decision-makers to take a hard look at how might we bring about smoother and more timely transitions."

She said the solutions could improve people's quality of life and still be cost effective.

Penning and Cloutier, a social gerontologist at UVic's Centre on Aging, received $233,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and a further $100,000 from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research to carry out the research.

Tim Uppal, federal minister of state for democratic reform, announced CIHR's commitment to the project during a media conference at the university on Wednesday.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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