Methodology and feasibility of a home-based examination in disabled older women: the Women's Health and Aging Study

J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1997 Sep;52(5):M264-74. doi: 10.1093/gerona/52a.5.m264.


Background: To ascertain disease and functional capacity in community-resident disabled older women in the Women's Health and Aging Study (WHAS), a prospective investigation of the causes and course of disability, a home-based standardized physical examination and performance test battery were developed. Thirty-nine tests were administered, 9 by a lay interviewer and 30 by a nurse. This scope and intensity of testing had not been performed previously in a home environment or on such a functionally limited population. Thus, substantial developmental work was required. This report describes the administrative procedures and field experience for each exam component, highlighting innovations pertinent to home administration.

Methods: Exclusion criteria, safety issues, administration time, completion rates, and reasons for incomplete data are reported. Administration time is based on 30 exams conducted over a 3-week period 90% of the way through baseline data collection. Completion status was determined using all 1,002 participants and is categorized as follows: complete; partial; not done, health; not done, other; and refused.

Results: Seventy-two percent of the screened, eligible respondents completed the 30-min interviewer-administered physical assessment and the 2-hr, 10-min nurse examination. Classifiable data were obtained for 90% of participants on 36 examination items. Lower completion rates were obtained on the other three tests primarily due to exclusions for health-related conditions; environmental constraints and participant refusal were minimal.

Conclusion: Extensive, research-oriented physical evaluation can be successfully and safely performed in a home setting. In future studies, home-based examination may be preferable, as participation in the WHAS examination substantially exceeded rates for clinic-based exams in similar populations.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disabled Persons*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Physical Examination*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Women's Health*