Image of Wanzhu Tu, Ph.D., of the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University School of Medicine
Wanzhu Tu, Ph.D.; Image Credit: Regenstrief Institute and IU School of Medicine

Long-stay nursing home residents aged 60 years and younger have double the odds of a hospital transfer when compared to residents aged 80 years and older. They also present with a different clinical profile, a new study finds.

The analysis of federal acute-care transfer data from nearly 1,200 long-stay residents showed that annual rates of hospital transfers decreased with age. Transfer rates were highest in the younger-than-60 group, and declined slowly between ages 60 and 80. After age 80, this decrease in transfer rates accelerated.

The findings refute the notion that hospital transfer rates increase along with age and fragility. They also offer a glimpse into the needs of the significant population of younger people now cared for in nursing homes, the researchers said. About 1 in 6 long-stay nursing home residents in the United States are younger than age 65, reported study lead Wanzhu Tu, Ph.D., of the Regenstrief Institute and the Indiana University School of Medicine. 

Younger residents also were found to experience more sepsis, daily pain and anemia, and more often required dialysis or tube feeding than the older cohort. Older residents, meanwhile, had a higher rate of cognitive decline, dementia and diabetes. The older residents also were more likely to have an advance care planning preference for comfort care in life limiting situations, the researchers noted.

“Knowing and understanding age-specific rates of hospital transfers, as we now do, could support benchmarks for care provision and help in the design of targeted strategies to reduce hospital transfers that better recognize and address the diverse needs of nursing home residents of different ages, especially younger residents,” Tu said.

Full findings were published in the journal Age and Aging.