In-home preventive visits with multidimensional geriatric assessments can delay the onset of disabilities in older people.
This was a stratified randomized trial. There were 791 participants, community-dwelling people in Bern, Switzerland, older than 75 years. The participants' risk status was based on 6 baseline predictors of functional deterioration. The intervention consisted of annual multidimensional assessments and quarterly follow-up in-home visits by 3 public health nurses (nurses A, B, and C), who, in collaboration with geriatricians, evaluated problems, gave recommendations, facilitated adherence with recommendations, and provided health education. Each nurse was responsible for conducting the home visits in 1 ZIP code area.
After 3 years, surviving participants at low baseline risk in the intervention group were less dependent in instrumental activities of daily living (ADL) compared with controls (odds ratio, 0.6; 95% confidence interval, 0.3-1.0; P=.04). Among subjects at high baseline risk, there were no favorable intervention effects on ADL and an unfavorable increase in nursing home admissions (P=.02). Despite the similar health status of subjects, nurse C identified fewer problems in the subjects who were visited compared with those assessed by nurses A and B. Subgroup analysis revealed that among low-risk subjects visited by nurses A and B, the intervention had favorable effects on instrumental ADL (P=.005) and basic ADL (P=.009), reduced nursing home admissions (P=.004), and resulted in net cost savings in the third year (US $1403 per person per year). Among low-risk subjects visited by nurse C, the intervention had no favorable effects.
These data suggest that this intervention can reduce disabilities among elderly people at low risk but not among those at high risk for functional impairment, and that these effects are likely related to the home visitor's performance in conducting the visits.