Research Activities March 2013, No. 391
Seasonal influenza has a substantial impact on activities of daily living in nursing home residents
Elderly Health/Long-Term Care
Getting influenza can debilitate anyone, but the elderly are most vulnerable to its effects. In fact, seasonal flu outbreaks cause a substantial decline in functioning among nursing home residents, particularly in their ability to carry out activities of daily living (ADL), according to a new study. Researchers identified 2,351 freestanding nursing homes in 122 cities where weekly influenza mortality data is tracked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They studied six influenza seasons from October 1999 to September 2005. They measured ADL-decline indicators, such as weight loss, new or worsening pressure ulcers, and infections, from a national nursing home patient database.
Physical function outcome measures, including ADL decline, mirrored the seasonal trends of influenza severity and mortality. There was a strong association between influenza mortality and high ADL decline, weight loss, and infections. No associations were found for restraint use, antipsychotic medications, or persistent pain—control measures of nursing home quality that were not expected to vary with seasonal influenza. The researchers call for more studies to understand the effectiveness of influenza vaccination to prevent functional decline in nursing home residents. They also suggest research to understand how some nursing homes are able to identify influenza cases early, minimize resident exposure, and reduce its impact on functional decline. The study was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS18462).
See "Effect of influenza on functional decline," by Pedro L. Gozalo, Ph.D., Aurora Pop-Vicas, M.D., Zhanlian Feng, Ph.D., and others in the July 2012 Journal of the American Geriatric Society 60(7), pp. 1260-1267.