In Europe and Asia, long-term care funding is disability-based. This introduces a perverse effect by inappropriately adding value to functional decline among beneficiaries. To support the efforts in prevention and rehabilitation made by personnel in long-term care services, indicators have to be developed to promote functional improvement of beneficiaries. As people receiving those services are already experiencing a functional decline process, it is essential to know the natural magnitude of functional decline in order to assess deviation from this expected decline. The objective of the study was to estimate the natural decrease of autonomy in beneficiaries of home care services and nursing homes.
Two databases were used: for home-dwelling people, 1235 subjects over 75 years old who participated in the PRISMA study; for institutions, 1330 residents over 65 years old of a nursing home in Sherbrooke (QC, Canada). These subjects were assessed several times over many years with the Functional Autonomy Measurement System (SMAF). Growth analyses were used to estimate the annual decrease in the SMAF score according to age, gender and the initial autonomy status.
At home, only age was significantly associated with the slope of functional decline. The average annual decrease of subjects 75-84 years old was 2.4 points on the SMAF score (out of 87); for those aged over 85, the annual loss was 3.8 points. In institutions, gender and the initial autonomy profile were associated with the annual decrease. For men, the annual decrease varied between 0.7 for the most disabled subjects to 5.2 for the most autonomous. For women, those values varied from 0.2 to 6.6, respectively.
A decrease in the SMAF score less than these expected values should be associated with a bonus to support personnel training, prevention activities, rehabilitation and activities aimed at supporting the autonomy of the beneficiaries. Such a strategy requires the implementation of a precise and reliable assessment instrument like the SMAF and also the availability of a longitudinal database where data for each beneficiary could be linked over time.