Although caregivers are important in the management of frail, community-dwelling older adults, the influence of different caregiver network types on the risk of adverse healthcare outcomes is unknown.
To examine the association between caregiver type and the caregiver network subtest of The Risk Instrument for Screening in the Community (RISC), a five point Likert scale scored from one ("can manage") to five ("absent/liability"). To measure the association between caregiver network scores and the one-year incidence of institutionalisation, hospitalisation and death.
Observational cohort study.
Community-dwelling adults, aged >65, attending health centres in Ireland, (n=779). PROCEDURE AND MEASUREMENTS: The caregiver network subtest of the RISC was scored by public health nurses. Caregivers were grouped dichotomously into low-risk (score of one) or high-risk (scores two-five).
The majority of patients had a primary caregiver (582/779; 75%), most often their child (200/582; 34%). Caregiver network scores were highest, indicating greatest risk, when patients had no recognised primary caregiver and lowest when only a spouse or child was available. Despite this, patients with a caregiver were significantly more likely to be institutionalised than those where none was required or identified (11.5% versus 6.5%, p=0.047). The highest one-year incidence of adverse outcomes occurred when state provided care was the sole support; the lowest when private care was the sole support. Significantly more patients whose caregiver networks were scored high-risk required institutionalisation than low-risk networks; this association was strongest for perceived difficulty managing medical domain issues, odds ratio (OR) 3.87:(2.22-6.76). Only perceived difficulty managing ADL was significantly associated with death, OR 1.72:(1.06-2.79). There was no association between caregiver network scores and risk of hospitalisation.
This study operationalizes a simple method to evaluate caregiver networks. Networks consisting of close family (spouse/children) and those reflecting greater socioeconomic privilege (private supports) were associated with lower incidence of adverse outcomes. Caregiver network scores better predicted institutionalisation than hospitalisation or death.