Social care professionals have been told to give users more information and advice on extra care housing after research found that it led to better outcomes and reduced costs compared with home care alone.
People aged over 80 entering extra care housing receiving a care package were half as likely to move into institutional care within five years as a similar group receiving home care in the community, found the International Longevity Centre-UK report.
A quarter of residents entering extra care with a care package, or who later required a care package, saw a decline in their social care needs over five years.
And extra care service users aged over 80 also had a lower incidence of hospitalisation than domiciliary care users, leading to savings of up to £544 per person per year. They were also less likely to experience falls.
Possible explanations for the benefits of extra care include that social care users live alongside retired people with no care needs, helping them to remain active and providing peer support, and the availability of 24-hour crisis care.
However, extra care amounts to just 1% of the housing stock for those aged over 65 and the ILC warned that it was unlikely to fulfil its potential “without a co-ordinated response from policymakers to providing housing, health care and social care for our ageing population”.
The ILC-UK urged government to commit to increase the level of provision of extra care housing, to provide guidance to local authorities on housing provision and to enhance information and advice programmes.
Head of policy and research David Sinclair said: “There’s a big role for the professionals in making sure people are aware of the options in terms of housing and that the sort of accommodation and social support people have is important in quality of life and in health outcomes.”
The study, one of the first to track the experiences of extra care residents, was based upon longitudinal data on almost 4,000 residents supplied by three extra care providers.
What is extra care and who lives in it?
As a broad definition, extra care housing is a model that combines purpose-built and ergonomically-designed housing for older people with onsite flexible care that adapts to residents’ changing needs and allows them to retain their independence. A ‘home from home’ feel is also a key aspect, which is expressed through the self-contained design of the housing units, as well as resident participation on management committees.
It is often regarded as an alternative to a care home for those with moderate to high support needs with most new residents being in their late 70s. Some two-thirds of residents are women, and about three in ten residents enter as part of a couple.
Most residents who enter extra care housing do not require an additional care package on arrival, beyond that provided as part of the minimum standard package, such as meals and housekeeping.
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