BACKGROUND: Because of the rapid aging population, the demand for residential care exceeds availability. This paper presents the results of a study that focuses on the demand of elderly people for residential care and determinants (elderly people's personal characteristics, needs and resources) that are associated with this demand. Furthermore, the accuracy of the waiting list as a reflection of this demand has been examined.
METHODS: 67 elderly people waiting for admission into a home for the elderly, are subjected to semi-structured interviews. The data are analyzed by using multivariate statistics.
RESULTS: Elderly people who indicate that they would refuse an offer of admission into a home for the elderly feel healthier (p = 0.02), have greater self-care agency (p = 0.02) and perceive less necessity of admission (p < 0.01), compared to those who would accept such an offer. Especially the inability to manage everyday activities and the lack of a social network are highly associated with the elderly people's demand for residential care. Furthermore, it is evident that waiting lists for homes for the elderly do not accurately reflect the demand for residential care, since 35% of the elderly people on a waiting list did not actually experience an immediate demand for residential care and stated that they would not accept an offer of admission. Quite a lot of respondents just registered out of a sense of precaution; a strategic decision dictated by current shortages in care provision and a vulnerable health status.
CONCLUSION: The results contribute to the understanding of waiting lists and the demand for residential care. It became apparent that not everybody who asks for admission into a home for the elderly, really needed it. The importance of elderly people's resources like social networks and the ability to manage everyday activities in relation to the demand for care became clear. These findings are important because they indicate that resources also play a role in predicting elderly people's demand and as a result can guide the development and the (re)design of adequate health care services.
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