Individual and institutional factors associated with functional disability in nursing home residents

High prevalence of functional limitations has been previously observed in nursing homes. Disability may depend not only on the characteristics of the residents but also on the facility characteristics. The aims of this study were: 1, to describe the prevalence of functional disability in older people living in Spanish nursing homes; and 2, to analyze the relationships between individual and nursing home characteristics and residents’ functional disability.

A cross-sectional study with data collected from 895 residents in 34 nursing homes in the province of Albacete (Spain) was conducted. Functional status was assessed by the Barthel Index. Taking into account both levels of data (individual and institutional characteristics) we resorted to a multilevel analysis in order to take different sources of variability in the data.

The prevalence of functional disability of the total sample was 79.8%. The best fitting multilevel model showed that female gender, older age, negative self-perception of health, and living in private nursing homes were factors significantly associated with functional disability. After separating individual and institutional effects, the institutions showed significant differences.

In line with previous findings, this study found high levels of functional dependence among institutionalized elders. Gender, age, self-perception of health, and institution ownership were associated with functional status. Disentangling individual and institutional effects by means of multilevel models can help evaluate the quality of the residences.