VA Research and Development LOGO

Logo for the Journal of Rehab R&D
Volume 41 Number 6A, November/December 2004
Pages 847 — 860

Analyses of male residents in community nursing facilities: Comparisons of Veterans Health Administration residents to other residents

Robert J. Buchanan, PhD; Christopher Johnson, PhD; Suojin Wang, PhD; Diane C. Cowper, MA; Myung Suk Kim, MS; Dean Reker, PhD, RN

College of Health and Human Services, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC; Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Rehabilitation Research and Development and Health Services Research and Development Rehabilitation Outcomes Research Center, and Department of Health Services Administration, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; Department of Statistics, Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University, College Station, TX; Department of Health Policy and Management, Kansas City VA Medical Center, Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, KS
Abstract — We compared Veterans Health Administration (VHA) residents in community nursing facilities to other residents. We used all admission assessments in the Minimum Data Set throughout the United States during 2000 to identify 7,296 male VHA residents and 159,203 other male residents in community nursing facilities. Male VHA residents were significantly more independent in the self-performance of activities of daily living and less physically disabled than other male residents, with minor differences in cognitive function as measured by a Cognitive Performance Scale. Male VHA residents were more likely to have comorbidities than other male residents. Significantly larger proportions of other male residents than VHA residents received special treatments and procedures, with especially large differences for various therapies (e.g., physical therapy). We found significant differences in the demographic and clinical characteristics of male VHA residents in community nursing facilities compared with other male residents. These differences in the delivery of services may have implications for the quality of care for veterans in this setting.

Key words: comorbidities, disability, Minimum Data Set, nursing facilities, special treatments, therapies, veterans.

Abbreviations: ADL = activity of daily living, A&M = Agricultural and Mechanical, COPD = chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, CPS = Cognitive Performance Scale, IRB = institutional review board, MDS = Minimum Data Set, SAS = Support Analysis for Software, VA = Department of Veterans Affairs, VHA = Veterans Health Administration.

This material was based on work supported by a VA RR&D/HSR&D Rehabilitation Outcomes Research Center HSR&D locally initiated project. In addition, Dr. Wang's research was supported in part by the National Cancer Institute (CA-57030) and the Texas A&M University Center for Environmental and Rural Health to do statistical methodology research and its application to the health sciences.
Address all correspondence and requests for reprints to Professor Robert J. Buchanan, PhD; Department of Health Behavior and Administration, College of Health and Human Services, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 9201 University City Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28223-0001; 704-687-4792; fax: 704-687-6122; email: rjbuchan@email.uncc.edu.
DOI: 10.1682/JRRD.2003.05.0082
INTRODUCTION

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA), under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), provides acute and primary medical care in 162 inpatient facilities and 731 outpatient facilities [1]. The VHA largely owns and operates these facilities; for example, of these 731 outpatient clinics, 105 are VHA-owned, 378 are leased and VHA-staffed, and 248 are contracted [1]. In the provision of select services, including nursing home care, the VHA contracts with community-based providers to cost-effectively accommodate service needs with variable demand or high capital requirements in smaller markets. Currently, in the VHA, 131 facilities provide nursing home care [2]. To meet the additional long-term care needs for veterans, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Minimum Data Set (MDS) for Nursing Home Resident Assessment and Care Screening indicates that during the year 2000, 3,965 community nursing home facilities had at least one VHA reimbursed resident. About 12 percent of the nursing home care paid by the VHA during fiscal year 2002 was provided to VHA residents in community nursing facilities [2]. In this descriptive study, to learn more about VHA residents in community nursing facilities, we compared demographic and clinical characteristics of male veterans receiving VHA-funded care in community nursing facilities with all other male residents in these facilities.

This study developed and compared comprehensive profiles of male VHA residents with other male residents at admission to community nursing homes. These profiles describe sociodemographic characteristics, health status, and the treatments received in the nursing facilities. This is an exploratory study that provides descriptive analyses as a first step in understanding the quality of care of veterans and their use of health services in community nursing homes. To gain insights into differences between male VHA residents and other male residents, we used the MDS to perform comparative analyses on all male residents (7,296) admitted to community nursing facilities whose nursing home care per diem was paid by the VHA and on all other male residents (159,203) admitted to nursing facilities throughout the United States (U.S.) during 2000. These analyses provide new information about residents in community nursing homes for whom care is paid by the VHA.

METHODS
Minimum Data Set

The MDS is a federally mandated assessment instrument that includes all nursing home residents (regardless of payment source) in all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing facilities in the United States [3]. Trained clinical professionals (such as nurses, social workers, or therapists) assess the residents by direct observation over all shifts before the MDS assessment [3]. Each item within the MDS is defined, with guidance provided on how to ask questions, what to observe, and whom to contact for information [4]. In addition, each resident's preadmission, admission, or transfer notes are reviewed, as well as the current plan of care and recent physician notes or orders for the resident's immediate care [4]. Full MDS assessments are required for each nursing home resident at admission (within 14 days), upon significant changes in status, and at least annually [4]. In addition, residents are assessed quarterly on a subset of MDS items.

The MDS contains comprehensive health, cognitive, and psychosocial information on each resident, including demographic variables such as gender, birth date, marital status, race/ethnicity, place of residence, and payment source [4-5]. In addition, the data set includes information on mood, behavior, psychosocial well-being, cognitive patterns, ability to communicate, pain, and a number of physical functioning variables. The MDS also records disease diagnoses, infections, medications, and treatments or therapies received.

Analyses of Residents

To profile VHA and other residents at a comparable point in their nursing home stay, we analyzed residents at admission. The MDS admission assessment must be completed within 14 days of admission [4]. However, the number of days and total minutes of various therapies (e.g., physical or occupational therapies) recorded in the MDS admission assessment includes only postadmission therapies that were received in the 7 days before the MDS assessment [4-5]. We analyzed all MDS admission assessments (444,135 assessments) recorded throughout the United States. During 2000, we identified 7,730 residents admitted to community nursing facilities whose per diem was paid by the VHA. The MDS records current payment source or sources for the nursing home per diem or ancillary services, including "VA per diem" [4]. About 5.6 percent of these VHA residents were female. In contrast, 63.5 percent of all other residents admitted to U.S. nursing facilities were female during 2000. Because of these large gender differences between VHA and other residents, we focused our analyses only on male residents, comparing 7,296 male VHA residents with 159,203 other male residents admitted to community nursing facilities during 2000.

MDS Disease Coding

The MDS documents the presence of diseases and infections that have a relationship to each resident's activities of daily living (ADLs) status, cognitive status, mood or behavior, medical treatments, nursing monitoring, or risk of death [4]. The diseases recorded in the MDS drive the nursing care plan and do not include conditions that have been resolved or that do not affect the resident's functioning or care plan. For one to record disease information in the MDS assessment, the Long-Term Care Resident Assessment Instrument User's Manual, Version 2.0, states that transfer documentation and the medical record (including the current physician treatment orders and nursing care plans) should be consulted [4]. If the resident is transferred from an acute care or rehabilitation hospital, the discharge form often lists diagnoses and ICD-9-CM (International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification) codes that were current during the hospital stay and should be coded in the MDS, if still active. Studies have documented excellent reliability for diagnoses recorded in the MDS [6-7].

Cognitive Performance Scale

The Cognitive Performance Scale (CPS) uses five items in the MDS to construct a valid measure of cognitive impairment levels [8-9]. These items are short-term memory, cognitive skills for daily decision making, comatose status, ability of residents to make themselves understood, and full dependence in eating. The CPS categorizes residents into one of seven levels of cognitive performance, ranging from intact to extremely severe impairment.

ADL Long Scale

ADLs are used to measure the physical dependency of nursing home residents. Using MDS characteristics, Morris et al. developed an ADL Long Scale, with possible scores of 0 to 28 [10]. The higher the score is, the more physically dependent the nursing home resident. The ADL Long Scale comprises seven items, including early loss ADL items (dressing and personal hygiene), middle loss items (transfer, locomotion, and toilet use), and late loss items (eating and bed mobility).

MDS Pain Scale

Fries et al. used pain frequency and pain intensity from the MDS to develop a four-category MDS Pain Scale [11]. Residents with no pain or pain less than daily make up the first two categories of this pain scale. Residents with daily pain are divided into the other two categories based on pain intensity. Residents with daily pain that is horrible or excruciating form the highest category of pain, and all other residents with daily pain form an intermediate category.

Statistical Analyses

We used the statistical software package SAS to conduct analyses of MDS admission assessments. We used standard SAS procedures (such as proc freq, proc univariate, etc.) to produce the statistical results presented in the tables. Population characteristics, such as percentages, means, medians, standard deviations, etc., were computed for these analyses. Statistical testing was required to ascertain whether the variability across subgroups exceeded the variability within each subgroup. To test for statistically significant differences between VHA and other residents, we used two sample tests for proportion comparisons (e.g., diagnosis of depression) and for continuous variables (e.g., age). Because the sample sizes are quite large, the limiting normal distribution is used in calculating the p-values in the two sample tests for both proportions and continuous variables. We used the two-way contingency table chi-square test for categorical data (e.g., marital status). Given the large number of VHA and other residents compared in this study, we noted statistically significant differences only when the p-value was 0.01. The institutional review board (IRB) at Texas A&M (Agricultural and Mechanical) University reviewed an IRB protocol for this study, with approval granted on September 3, 2002. The MDS data displayed in this research are consistent with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' data release and privacy guidelines.

RESULTS
Demographic Characteristics

Table 1 shows many significant demographic differences between male VHA residents and other male residents at admission to nursing facilities. The age distribution of these two groups of male residents at admission shows that larger proportions of other male residents were either 50 years or younger or 81 years or older compared with male VHA residents (Table 1). We also found significant differences in marital status, with other male residents more likely to be married or never married and male VHA residents more likely to be divorced. Table 1 also illustrates significant differences between male VHA and other male residents in the location from which they were admitted to the nursing facility, with a larger proportion of male VHA residents admitted from an acute care hospital. In addition, Table 1 shows the use of advance directives and shows who has responsibility for decisions about the resident's healthcare, treatments, financial matters, and legal affairs. We found only small and mostly insignificant differences between VHA residents and other male residents in the use of advance directives at admission.


Table 1. 
Sociodemographic characteristics.
Characteristic
Male VHA Residents
(N = 7,296)
All Other Male Residents
(N = 159,203)
Age (yr)
   
Mean* Standard Deviation
72.1 12.0
71.6 16.7
Median
75.1
75.9
 
 
 
Age Distribution (yr)*
Percentages
50 or Younger
5.7
12.3
51 to 60
11.5
10.2
61 to 70
16.3
14.4
71 to 80
40.5
25.1
81 to 90
24.0
29.3
Over 91
2.1
8.6
 
 
Racial/Ethnic*
 
 
White (not Hispanic)
78.6
77.2
Black (not Hispanic)
17.5
13.4
Hispanic
2.8
6.3
Asian/Pacific Islander
0.6
2.3
American Indian/Alaska Native
0.6
0.9
 
 
Marital Status*
 
 
Married
38.5
43.2
Divorced
23.4
11.8
Widowed
19.4
22.4
Never Married
15.3
20.0
Separated
3.5
2.7
 
 
Payment Sources for Nursing Home Stay (more than one may apply)
 
 
VA Per Diem*
100.0
0.0
Self-Pay Per Diem*
8.3
24.0
Medicare Ancillary Part B
5.0
5.6
Medicaid Per Diem*
3.9
36.1
Other Per Diem*
2.7
9.2
Medicare Ancillary Part A*
2.0
4.0
Private Health Insurance Per Diem*
1.9
30.0
Medicare Per Diem*
1.7
5.3
Medicaid Resident Liability/Medicare Copay*
1.0
5.1
 
 
Location Before Admitted to Nursing Home*
 
 
Acute Care Hospital
65.8
58.2
Private Residence Without Home Health Services
11.6
13.3
Nursing Home
9.4
11.9
Psychiatric Hospital/MR/DD Facility
3.5
3.4
Other
3.3
1.6
Private Residence With Home Health Services
2.9
5.4
Location Before Admitted to Nursing Home* (Continued)
 
 
Board and Care/Assisted Living/Group Home
2.0
4.9
Rehabilitation Hospital
1.4
1.4
 
 
Responsibility/Legal Guardian (more than one may apply)
 
 
Family Member Responsible*
49.8
53.8
Patients Responsible for Themselves
43.1
43.5
Durable Power of Attorney/Healthcare
21.8
21.0
Durable Power of Attorney/Financial*
16.0
13.8
Legal Guardian*
5.8
4.7
Other Legal Oversight*
2.7
2.1
None of the Above*
5.0
4.1
 
 
Advanced Directives (more than one may apply)
 
 
Do Not Resuscitate*
29.5
32.2
Living Will
13.4
13.4
Feeding Restrictions
7.0
7.3
Other Treatment Restrictions*
6.1
5.3
Medication Restrictions
2.0
2.0
Do Not Hospitalize*
1.6
2.4
None of the Above*
61.2
59.6
——————————————————
*p < 0.01
VHA = Veterans Health Administration
MR = mental retardation
DD = developmentally disabled
ADL Dependency and Physical Disability

Other male residents tended to be significantly more ADL-dependent than male VHA residents, as measured by the ADL Long Scale. In addition, significantly greater proportions of male VHA residents were independent in the self-performance of the ADLs than other male residents (Table 2). However, compared with male VHA residents, significantly greater proportions of other male residents were determined either by resident self-assessments or the nursing home staff assessments to be capable of increased ADL independence.


Table 2. 
ADL self-performance and measures of physical disability.
Characteristic
Male VHA Residents
(N = 7,296)
All Other Male Residents
(N = 159,203)
ADL Long Scale Score
Mean* Standard Deviation
11.5 8.8
13.2 8.7
Median
10.0
13.0
ADL: Independent
Percentages
Bed Mobility*
54.3
42.7
Walk in Room*
34.8
25.9
Dressing*
20.0
14.6
Eating*
56.8
52.0
Toilet Use*
30.5
22.4
Personal Hygiene*
20.3
16.1
ADL: Extensive Assistance/Total Dependence†‡
Bed Mobility*
24.1
30.6
Walk in Room*
44.4
48.1
Dressing*
44.9
51.0
Eating*
15.8
19.6
Toilet Use*
44.1
49.3
Personal Hygiene*
43.9
46.9
Resident Capable of Increased ADL Independence
Resident Self-Assessment*
22.6
29.8
Staff Assessment*
28.3
36.6
Test for Balance, Standing*
Maintained Position
21.6
17.3
Unsteady, Rebalanced Self Without Physical Support
16.2
14.9
Partial Physical Support
18.3
20.4
Unable Without Physical Help
43.9
47.5
Test for Balance, Sitting*
Maintained Position
65.9
61.1
Unsteady, Rebalanced Self Without Physical Support
9.1
10.3
Partial Physical Support
12.4
12.8
Unable Without Physical Help
12.6
15.8
Accidents: Fell in Past 30 Days*
22.2
25.8
Unsteady Gait*
34.2
38.8
Modes of Locomotion (more than one may apply)
Wheelchair (primary mode)*
53.4
51.5
Wheelchair (someone else pushes)*
41.0
47.6
Wheelchair (self)*
40.2
34.6
Cane/Walker*
27.8
36.8
None of Mentioned Modes*
26.6
24.3
Selected Modes of Transfer
Bed Rails Used*
39.5
47.8
Transfer Aide*
18.1
25.3
Bedfast All or Most of the Time*
5.6
7.2
None of Listed Modes of Transfer*
40.9
31.6
——————————————————
*p < 0.01
Minimum Data Set (MDS) also can record each resident as requiring "supervision," "limited assistance," "extensive assistance," "total dependence," or "activity did not occur" in self-performance of ADLs. Only relatively small percentages of these residents required either "supervision" or "limited assistance" levels of assistance in self-performance of ADLs, and they are not included in this table. However, we performed tests for statistical significance for self-performance of these selected ADLs included in this table using all categories of ADL dependence.
Responses of "activity did not occur" were combined with total dependence. Source: Morris JN, Fries BE, Morris SA. Scaling ADLs within the MDS. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1999;54(11):M546-53.
ADL = activity of daily living
VHA = Veterans Health Administration

Table 2 also presents measures of physical disability recorded in the MDS that indicate other male residents tended to be more physically disabled than male VHA residents at admission. Other male residents were significantly more likely to perform tests for balance with physical help or to have an unsteady gait than male VHA residents. However, a slightly larger proportion of male VHA residents depended on a wheelchair as their primary mode of locomotion, while a larger proportion of other male residents used a cane or walker. Other male residents were significantly more likely than male VHA residents to require the modes of transfer presented in Table 2. Although the differences are small, significantly greater proportions of male VHA residents had no limit in their range of arm motion and no loss of voluntary arm or leg movement compared with other male residents. (These differences in range of motion and loss of voluntary movement are not reported in Table 2.)

Cognitive Function and Communication

Table 3 indicates minor differences between male VHA and other male residents for a range of measures of cognitive function at admission. A significantly larger proportion of other male residents (20%) had at least moderately severe cognitive impairment, as measured by the CPS, compared with male VHA residents (17%). We found no significant differences between these two groups of male residents for short-term or long-term memory problems, although male VHA residents had slightly better memory recall ability. Although not presented in Table 3, small differences were observed among these male residents in measures of periodic disordered thinking or awareness. Although statistically significant, only a slightly larger proportion of male VHA residents were better able to make themselves understood by other people than other male residents as Table 3 shows.


Table 3.
Cognitive function, communication abilities, and mental health.
Characteristic
Male VHA Residents (%)
(N = 7,296)
All Other Male Residents (%)
(N = 159,203)
Cognitive Performance Scale Distribution*
Intact
28.0
29.1
Borderline Intact
17.2
14.7
Mild Impairment
14.0
13.5
Moderate Impairment
24.2
22.8
Moderately Severe Impairment
6.9
7.4
Severe Impairment
5.5
5.9
Very Severe Impairment
4.1
6.6
Cognitive Skills for Daily Decision-Making*
Independent
32.4
33.6
Modified Independence
25.0
22.6
Moderately Impaired
33.2
31.8
Severely Impaired
9.5
12.0
Cognitive Patterns: Memory Problems
Short-Term
54.5
55.4
Long-Term
39.4
39.0
Memory/Recall Ability (resident can recall)
Resident is in Nursing Facility
71.3
70.1
Location of Own Room*
65.2
61.6
Staff Names/Faces
65.0
63.9
Current Season*
58.9
56.5
Communication: Making Self Understood*
Understood
67.6
64.7
Usually
18.0
17.7
Sometimes
10.5
12.0
Rarely/Never
3.8
5.6
Mental Health History*
13.8
10.9
Indicators of Depression, Anxiety, or Sad Mood
Sad, Pained, or Worried Facial Expressions*
17.4
18.7
Persistent Anger
13.2
12.6
Repetitive Physical Movements*
11.1
12.2
Repetitive Anxious Complaints*
9.9
8.5
Insomnia/Change in Sleep Pattern*
8.1
9.1
Psychosocial Well-Being (sense of involvement)
At Ease Interacting With Others
78.5
77.9
Self-Initiated Activities*
46.3
44.3
At Ease in Planned Activities
38.3
39.4
Establishes Own Goals*
22.5
20.6
Accepts Invitations to Group Activities
14.4
14.2
Pursues Life in Facility*
11.1
9.9
——————————————————
*p < 0.01
VHA = Veterans Health Administration
Mental Health and Behavior

A slightly larger proportion of male VHA residents had a history of mental illness compared with other male residents as Table 3 illustrates. We found significant, although small, differences among these male residents in the expression of indicators of depression, anxiety, or sad moods that are presented in Table 3. Also, we found small differences among these male residents in psychosocial well-being or measures of the resident's emotional adjustment to life in the facility. Most of the male VHA residents and other male residents did not exhibit the range of behaviors recorded in the MDS. These behaviors are wandering, exhibiting verbal or physical abuse, behaving inappropriately, or resisting care. Any differences between the two groups of male residents in the frequency of these behaviors were small. (These behaviors are not reported in Table 3.)

Other Health Measures

We found small differences in pain among these male residents, with a slightly larger proportion of male VHA residents experiencing no pain at admission. Table 4 illustrates small differences in the intensity of pain between these two groups of male residents. In addition, Table 4 presents the diseases and infections most common among these male residents at admission to the nursing facility, demonstrating significant differences. While hypertension was the most common disease among both groups of male residents, a significantly larger proportion of the male VHA residents had this diagnosis. Similarly, significantly greater proportions of male VHA residents had diagnoses of most of the other diseases common to male residents, with the differences largest for dementia other than Alzheimer's and for emphysema/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). With the exception of the urinary tract infection, the most common infections shown in Table 4 were more prevalent in other male residents than in male VHA residents, although the differences were small. We found small differences among these two groups of male residents at admission in the presence of pressure ulcers but observed no significance differences in bowel or bladder incontinence (incontinence is not reported in Table 4).


Table 4.
Other health measures.
Characteristic
Male VHA Residents (%)
(N = 7,296)
All Other Male Residents (%)
(N = 159,203)
Distribution of MDS Pain Index*
No Pain
59.1
57.3
Mild Pain (pain less than daily)
19.0
20.2
Moderate Pain (daily pain)
17.3
17.2
Excruciating Pain (daily pain)
4.6
5.5
Most Common Diseases Among Male VA Residents
Hypertension*
51.3
45.0
Diabetes*
29.6
26.0
Dementia Other than Alzheimer's Disease*
28.0
23.4
Emphysema/COPD*
26.5
18.2
Depression*
24.5
21.5
Cerebrovascular Accident (Stroke)
21.8
20.9
Other Cardiovascular Disease*
20.5
17.6
Congestive Heart Failure
17.4
17.5
Anemia
17.2
16.6
Cancer*
16.2
14.0
Most Common Infections Among Male VHA Residents
Urinary Tract Infection*
11.7
10.6
Pneumonia*
6.7
8.6
Wound Infection*
3.6
4.9
Respiratory Infection
2.8
3.0
Antibiotic Resistant Infection*
2.8
3.4
Pressure Ulcers
No Pressure Ulcers*
82.6
80.3
Stage 1*
3.8
5.1
Stage 2
8.8
9.1
Stage 3
2.3
2.5
Stage 4*
2.5
3.1
——————————————————
*p < 0.01
MDS = Minimum Data Set
COPD = chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
VHA = Veterans Health Administration
Medications, Treatments, and Nutritional Approaches

Table 5 illustrates the differences between these two groups of male residents in the projected length of stays in the nursing facility, with a significantly larger proportion of other male residents expected to have stays of 30 days or less. Other male residents were significantly more likely to have a support person positive toward discharge than were the VHA residents.


Table 5. 
Medications, treatments, and therapies.
Characteristic
Male VHA Residents
(N = 7,296)
All Other Male Residents
(N = 159,203)
Projected Stay of Short Duration (%)*
No
50.1
47.8
Within 30 days
9.6
17.9
31-90 days
11.0
7.1
Discharge Status Uncertain
29.4
27.2
Discharge Potential (%)
Resident Wishes to Return to Community*
46.2
48.0
Support Person Positive Toward Discharge*
32.4
40.0
Number of Medications
Mean* SD
8.7 4.2
8.2 4.3
Median
8
8
Specific Medications (% of residents taking daily)
 
Antipsychotic*
21.5
17.8
Antianxiety
10.3
9.5
Antidepressant*
30.0
24.6
Hypnotic
3.6
3.9
Diuretic*
24.5
22.8
Special Treatments, Procedures, and Programs (%)
Intake/Output*
29.4
36.6
Monitoring Acute Medical Condition*
29.0
34.5
Oxygen Therapy*
14.3
16.3
Training in Community Skills*
9.5
20.2
Intravenous (IV) Medication*
7.4
16.8
Alzheimer's/Dementia Special Care Unit*
6.9
5.4
Hospice*
1.4
3.9
Physical Therapy
Minutes
Mean* SD
39.6 81.3
80.4 134.4
Median
0
0
75th Percentile
30
150
Occupational Therapy
Mean* SD
26.6 67.4
54.6 99.2
Median
0
0
75th Percentile
0
90
Respiratory Therapy
Mean* SD
9.0 88.4
21.4 179.2
Median
0
0
75th Percentile
0
0
Characteristic
Male VHA Residents (min)
(N = 7,296)
All Other Male Residents (min)
(N = 159,203)
Speech Therapy
Mean* SD
5.7 30.7
13.0 48.9
Median
0
0
75th Percentile
0
0
Psychological Therapy
Mean SD
1.9 27.2
2.3 46.7
Median
0
0
75th Percentile
0
0
——————————————————
*p < 0.01
Based on total number of minutes of therapy each resident received in 7 days prior to assessment.
SD = standard deviation
VHA = Veterans Health Administration
Medications and Treatments

We found a significant difference in the average number of medications that these male residents received, as Table 5 illustrates. A significantly greater proportion of male VHA residents received daily antipsychotic or antidepressant medications compared with other male residents. Other male residents were significantly more likely to receive the special treatments and procedures presented in Table 5 than were the male VHA residents. Although the difference was small, a significantly larger proportion of male VHA residents received care in an Alzheimer's or dementia special care unit than other male residents. In contrast, other male residents were more than twice as likely to receive training in community skills as were male VHA residents. Generally, we found only small differences in the proportions of these male residents who received the nutritional approaches recorded in the MDS, although male VHA residents were more likely to receive a therapeutic diet. (These nutritional approaches are not in Table 5.)

Therapies

We found large and significant differences between male VHA and other male residents in the average number of minutes of physical, occupational, respiratory, or speech therapies received at admission, with male VHA residents averaged receiving significantly less of these therapies.1 In addition, other male residents averaged receiving significantly more minutes of psychological therapies than male VHA residents, although the difference was less pronounced compared with the other therapies presented in Table 5. However, only minor differences were found between these two groups of male residents in the use of the intervention programs for mood, behavior, or cognitive loss recorded in the MDS. (These intervention programs are not presented in Table 5.)

DISCUSSION

This study presents many differences and a number of similarities between male VHA residents and other male residents at admission to community nursing facilities. Although these comparisons do not represent the entire VHA population of long-term care patients, they provide important insights into a special cohort of VHA patients, namely, those patients who receive care in community nursing facilities. When considering issues, such as appropriateness of care, process and quality of care, and patient outcomes, researchers and clinicians will find the identified differences important considerations for future evaluations and case-mix adjustments.

Compared with other male residents, male VHA residents were older, more often divorced, and slightly less heterogeneous racially. In addition, among the VHA male residents, significantly more were African Americans than among other male residents. VHA residents were more likely to be admitted from an acute facility and were slightly more likely to live alone than other male residents. These differences are consistent with known differences in the VHA healthcare population [12-13].

From a clinical perspective, male VHA residents were more ADL-independent, had fewer disabilities and accidents, but more frequently used a wheelchair as their primary mode of locomotion than other male residents. Male VHA residents tended to be slightly less cognitively impaired than other male residents, with smaller proportions of male VHA residents among the most severely impaired. Differences noted in ADL functions for VHA patients may be due in part to the extensive physical medicine and rehabilitation services that are important and valued services within the VHA. Similarly, veterans' greater use of wheelchairs may be due in part to VHA's extensive and generous prosthetics and durable medical equipment program. A larger proportion of male VHA residents received prior mental health services than other male residents, although the admission assessments for depression, well-being, and behavior for both groups of male residents were similar. This history of mental healthcare among male VHA residents may also be due to the comprehensive services that VHA provided.

For almost all measured conditions presented in Table 4, VHA residents exhibited higher proportions of morbidity than other male residents. This finding is consistent with prior published results comparing VHA patients to private sector patients [12-13]. However, levels of pain, infections, pressure ulcers, and incontinence were similar for both male VHA and other male residents. Consistent with increased morbidity and prior mental health treatment, the male VHA resident received more medications than other male residents, particularly psychiatric medications.

Finally, male VHA residents received much less physical, occupational, respiratory, speech, and psychological therapies in community nursing facilities than their other male counterparts. These differences may be due to the higher functional status on admission as measured in ADL and cognitive domains. These differences, as well as other process measures, will be explored in more detail in future studies.

The limitations of these comparisons involve the subset of VHA patients requiring long-term care and the incomplete adjustments or stratifications that would yield more robust comparisons. First, we are unable currently to access similar data to compare VHA residents who receive long-term care within the VHA with VHA residents in community nursing facilities. Such data would allow the assessment of any selection bias that may be present in this current study. Second, we did not control for any potential site or care setting effects that may be unequally distributed among nursing homes serving VHA residents. Planned data acquisitions and multivariate studies will address these limitations in future efforts.

CONCLUSIONS

We found statistically significant differences in the demographic and clinical characteristics of male VHA residents in community nursing facilities whose care is funded by the VHA compared with other male residents in these facilities. These differences may be quite meaningful when comparing quality of care and patient outcomes. Discrepant findings in the delivery of services warrant further investigation. In addition to comparing VHA residents in community nursing facilities to other residents, in future research, investigators will need to compare VHA residents in community nursing facilities with VHA residents receiving care in VHA nursing facilities to determine if these two groups have health, treatment, and outcome differences.

These results from our descriptive study raise a number of important questions that point out the need for additional future analyses. What are the characteristics of community nursing facilities (such as type of ownership, bed size, chain affiliation, or staffing patterns) that provide care for VHA residents compared with those facilities that do not care for veterans? Are the differences that we observed in health services use due to risk factors associated with the veteran population or are they due to the types of community nursing facilities that care male for VHA residents compared with those that do not? If we control for resident risk factors, will a difference exist in health services use, as well as outcomes, for VHA male residents versus other male residents? We know that the VHA resident population is largely male and younger, and by controlling for these and other factors, we would expect to find no differences in health services use or outcomes between VHA residents and other male residents. It is crucial that we understand the source of any significant differences in therapy use, healthcare use, and outcomes within community nursing facilities to ensure that veterans are receiving the best possible care within these facilities.

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Submitted for publication May 19, 2003. Accepted in revised form July 14, 2004.
1As mentioned earlier, the number of total minutes of various therapies (e.g., physical or occupational therapies) recorded in the MDS admission assessment includes only postadmission therapies [4-5].

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