Letters

Preventive home visits to elderly people in the community

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.321.7259.512 (Published 19 August 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:512

Visits are most useful for people aged ≥75

  1. Jonathan Newbury (jnewbury@medicine.adelaide.edu.au), lecturer,
  2. John Marley, professor
  1. Department of General Practice, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia 5005, Australia
  2. Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT
  3. Division of Geriatric Medicine, Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, London W12 0HS
  4. Department of Geriatrics and Rehabilitation, Zieglerspital, CH-3001 Berne, Switzerland
  5. MRC Health Services Research Collaboration, Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 2PR
  6. Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Berne, CH-3012 Berne, Switzerland
  7. Lonsdale Medical Centre, London NW6 6RR
  8. University of California at Los Angeles School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90024-1687, USA
  9. Research Division, Institute for Rehabilitation Research, PO Box 192, 6430 AD Hoensbroek, Netherlands

    EDITOR—The systematic review by van Haastregt et al of trials of preventive home visits for people aged 65 or over reported that “no clear evidence was found in favour” of such visits.1 Some of the trials reviewed showed favourable effects in some of the five main outcome measures (physical functioning, psychosocial functioning, falls, admissions to institutions, and mortality), but most found no effect. However, the review shows that favourable outcomes were more prevalent in studies conducted in older subjects (≥75), although it does not comment on this. The table is constructed from the analysis they report.

    Outcomes of physical functioning are the exception, with only one of the five favourable studies being in people aged 75 and over. This is not unexpected. It may be easier to improve physical functioning in the group aged 65 or over generally than in the group aged 75 or over specifically.

    General practitioners in Australia have recently been funded for “75+ health assessments.” We have just concluded a randomised controlled trial of these assessments. A nurse visited 100 elderly people who were living in the community on two occasions, one year apart (50 control, 50 intervention). No interval assessment nor reminder was included in the protocol.2 Initial analysis found:

    • Fewer people reported falls in the intervention group in the study year (12 v 22, P=0.055)

    • Fewer people died in the intervention group (1 v 5, P=0.2)

    • Physical functioning did not change (measured using Barthel index of activities of daily living)

    • Psychosocial functioning improved (geriatric depression scale 15, Wilcoxon scores (rank sums) P=0.09).

    Our study is consistent with the other published trials, showing modest improvement in the measured outcomes in the group aged 75 or over.

    Van Haastregt et al call for either improved effectiveness of preventive home visits or their discontinuation. Their …

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