The influence of municipal characteristics on the use of informal home care and home care services by the elderly Flemish

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Abstract

Background: When explaining the use of care, the context of the care gains importance. This article focuses on the influence of the municipality on the lives of the elderly regarding the usage of different forms of care, whereas controlling for the effect of individual characteristics. Methods: Two databases on the individual characteristics of elderly Flemish people living at home were combined with a database on municipal characteristics. The effect of municipal characteristics was measured through multi-level logistic regression. Results: A higher mean income per inhabitant and a lower number of inhabitants/100 km2 have a positive effect on the use of informal home care. The use of home care services is positively influenced by a higher family care index and an increasing relative number of hours of domestic care provided in the municipality. Receiving care from a general practitioner, medical specialist, dentist, emergency department, community nurse, physiotherapist, home aid, day-care centre or hospital with overnight stay is not influenced by the municipality’s characteristics. The use of public welfare services, meals-on-wheels programs or hospital outpatients’ services, however, are affected by the municipality, but cannot be fully explained by the model. Conclusion: The municipality that an elderly person lives in has an impact on the amount and the types of care an elderly person receives. Persons with similar care needs and similar individual characteristics can receive very different care when they live in different municipalities. This is quite a challenging finding for researchers, as well as for care providers and policy makers.

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