Public health nursing services in the Republic of Ireland for people aged over 50 are being used the most by those aged 85 years and above, with this trend set to continue due to an ageing population, according to a new study.
The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing was commissioned by the Institute of Community Health Nursing to examine the changing demographic and health profile of older adults using public health nursing services over two years across nine regions.
Trinity College Dublin researchers, who led the study, found that between 2009 and 2011 almost 7% of participants aged 50 years and older used these services – equivalent to 79,000 people if applied across the whole population.
“The high utilisation of these services by those aged 85 years and older is a key finding given the expected increase in this age category in the future”
Of these, a third were aged over 85 years old, and across all users around a quarter rated their health as “poor”, said the report - called Demographic and health profile of older adults utilising public health nursing services in Ireland: Findings from The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing.
In this first wave of research, nearly 40% of those using the services – delivered by both public health nurses and registered general nurses – had both an activity of daily living (ADL) difficulty and an instrumental activity of daily living (IADL) difficulty.
Those participants who were still using the service in later years - between 2012 and 2013 – were found to have worse self-rated health, higher ADL and IADL difficulties, and were also older than new users and those who had stopped using the nursing services.
“The high mortality rate in public health nursing service users points to a service with an important role in end of life care”
Professor Rose Anne Kenny
Report author Caitriona Murphy, who is also a nurse, said: “The high utilisation of these services by those aged 85 years and older is a key finding given the absolute increase in the numbers of older adults in this age category in the last census of Ireland and the expected increase in this age category in the future.”
Professor Rose Anne Kenny, founder of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, said: “The picture painted here of the changes in service utilisation across a two year period is one of a dynamic public health nursing service which responds to changing levels of need in the older population.
“The high mortality rate in public health nursing service users points to a service with an important role in end of life care for individuals and their families in the community.”