Care home medicine has been an under-researched area, but over the last decade there has been a substantial growth in publications. Most of these have focused on the 'geriatric giants' of falls, incontinence and mental health issues (especially dementia, behavioural disturbance and depression) as well as other key topics such as medication use and issues related to death and dying. Other areas of recent interest are around access to health services for care home residents, how such services may most effectively be developed and how the quality of life for residents can be enhanced. While many of the reported studies are small and not always well designed, evidence in several areas is emerging which begins to guide service developments. A common theme is that multi-disciplinary interventions are the most effective models of delivery. The role of care home staff as members of these teams is key to their effectiveness. Recent consensus guidelines around falls prevention in care homes synthesise the evidence and recommend multi-disciplinary interventions, and clarify the role of vitamin D and of exercise in certain populations in the care home. The benefits of pharmacist led medication reviews are beginning to emerge; although studies reviewed to date have not yet led to the 'holy grail' of hospital admission avoidance they point to benefits in reduction of drug burden. Effectiveness may be enhanced when working with GPs and care home nurses. Welcome evidence is emerging that in the UK the rate of prescription of anti-psychotics has fallen. This is clear evidence that changes in practice around care homes can be effected. The poor access to non-pharmacological therapies for care home residents with behavioural disturbance remains a significant gap in service. End-of-life care planning and delivery is an important part of care in care homes, and there is evidence that integrated pathways can improve care; however, the use of palliative care medications was limited unless specialist care staff were involved. Integrated models of care that focus on resident-centred goals and which value the role of care home staff as members of the team working to deliver these goals are most likely to result in improvements in the quality of care experienced by care home residents.
Keywords: care home; end-of-life care; falls; frailty; incontinence; integrated care; medication review; models of care.