New study will investigate effectiveness of home improvements in helping older people stay in their own home

A collaborative study led by health data scientists at Swansea University Medical School will investigate how home modifications and repairs can help to improve the lives of older home owners.

Despite wanting to remain living independently in their own home, as people become older many find it harder due to reduced mobility. Moving around their home may become more difficult and increase their risk of a fall. Changes and modifications are made by a network of Care & Repair agencies, represented by the national charity Care & Repair Cymru, to make homes more suitable for a person to remain living there, and stay healthy.

Recent reports suggest that more than 2,500 hospital beds a day are taken up by patients whose release has been delayed due to problems in the social care system. Care & Repair provide a Rapid Response service making it possible for people to return home following a hospital admission for a fall, therefore helping quicker hospital discharges and helping to tackle bed-blocking in the NHS.

Dr Sarah Rodgers, Associate Professor at Swansea University Medical School, who is leading the research team said: "We want to find out the effectiveness of this service for different people. We will investigate if Care & Repair advice visits and home modifications allow people to leave hospital and return to their own home more quickly, and if this support helps them to live there independently for longer."

The research team, including Care & Repair Cymru, Bradford Teaching Hospital, the College of Human and Health Science and the Health Informatics Group at Swansea University, will explore the impact the changes made to homes have on the health of older people's emergency admissions to hospital for falls.

The team will use data from Care & Repair Cymru together with hospital admission data held in the SAIL databank. The Secure Anonymised Information Linkage databank (SAIL) is a world-class system, based within the Health Informatics Group at Swansea University Medical School, which brings data together in a secure, trusted and confidential way. They will explore changes in hospital admissions through time for individuals receiving support from Care & Repair, compared to similarly frail people in Wales who do not receive this support.

Chris Jones Chief Executive of Care & Repair Cymru said "This research will provide health evidence that helps demonstrate the importance of preventative work, and to help us target our resources more effectively. It will provide us with an understanding of who we should be aiming our services at to have maximum benefit for patients, their families, and health services. Early, preventative interventions, including a healthy home, are key to reducing dependency and pressures on the NHS, and will be increasingly important as our population continues to age''

The impact of this research, which is funded by Health & Care Research Wales, could benefit society as a whole, particularly as we are part of a society with an ageing population. It could enable individuals keep their independence if they wish to remain in the comfort of a familiar environment. This new research partnership between health, housing and community services, will help services respond quickest to those people who most in need.