Purpose: This study determined whether returning to the community from a recent hospitalization with unmet activities of daily living (ADL) need was associated with probability of readmission.
Methods: A total of 584 respondents to the 1994, 1999, and/or 2004 National Long-Term Care Surveys (NLTCS) who were hospitalized within 90 days prior to the interview and reported ADL disability at the time of the interview were considered for analysis. Medicare claims linked to the NLTCS provided information about hospital episodes, so those enrolled in Health Maintenance Organizations or Veterans Affairs Medical Centers were not included (n = 62), resulting in a total sample size of 522. ADL disability was defined as needing human help or equipment to complete the task. Unmet ADL need was defined as receiving inadequate or no help for one or more ADL disabilities. Disability that began within 90 days of the interview was considered new disability.
Results: After adjusting for demographic, health, and functioning characteristics, unmet ADL need was associated with increased risk for hospital readmission (HR: 1.37, 95% CI: 1.03-1.82). Risk of readmission was greater for those with unmet need for new disabilities than those with unmet need for disabilities that were present before the index hospitalization (HR: 1.66, 95% CI: 1.01-2.73).
Implications: Many older patients are discharged from the hospital with ADL disability. Those who report unmet need for new ADL disabilities after they return home from the hospital are particularly vulnerable to readmission. Patients' functional needs after discharge should be carefully evaluated and addressed.