BACKGROUND: An important condition for independent living is having a well-functioning social network to provide support. An Integrated Neighbourhood Approach (INA) creates a supportive environment for the frail elderly, offering them tailored care in their local context that allows them to improve self-management abilities and well-being. The purpose of our research is to investigate how an INA can contribute to outcomes of frail elderly and the cost-effectiveness of such a program. The first central study question is: To what extent does INA contribute to (a) continuous, demand-driven, coordinated care and support for the independently- living frail elderly; (b) improvement of their well-being and self-management abilities; and (c) reinforcement of their neighbourhood networks. The second central research question is: is the INA a cost-effective method to support the frail, independently- living elderly?
METHODS: We investigate a Dutch INA. This transition experiment aims to facilitate the independently-living frail elderly (70+) to live the life they wish to live and improve their well-being. The study population consists of independently-living frail elderly persons in Rotterdam. The transition experiment starts in two Rotterdam districts and is later extended to two other districts. We propose a concurrent mixed methods design, that is, a combination of qualitative and quantitative research methods to evaluate processes, effects and costs of INA. Such a design will provide insight into an on-going INA and demonstrate which of its elements are potentially (cost)-effective for the frail elderly.
DISCUSSION: We embrace a wide range of scientific methodologies to evaluate the INA project and obtain information on mechanisms and contexts that will be valuable for decision making on local and national levels. The study will lead to a better understanding of how to provide support via social networks for the frail elderly and add to the knowledge on the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of the program in maintaining or improving their well-being. Last, the study will highlight the factors that determine the program's success or failure.
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