Women's College Research Institute

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Anticipating an aging population

Feb. 2012

Dr. Andrea Gruneir

Today’s health-care costs make up nearly half of Ontario’s budget. With the proportion of seniors in our population growing fast, the costs of delivering health care continue to grow.

“Making health care more effective and more efficient is absolutely critical as the Ontario population ages,” says Gruneir.

To move our system in the right direction, Gruneir led a study published recently in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMDA)1. Her insights are helping policy-makers understand how gaps in the health-care system can increase the burden on emergency departments.

“By understanding how these gaps contribute to patterns of emergency department use, and possibly hospital readmission, we can begin to target new models of care that address these weak points in our system, and prevent health crises that lead to poor outcomes for patients. Especially frail older adults.”

Gruneir’s population-based cohort study examines rates of emergency department use by long-term care home residents. She linked health-care transitions, especially from hospital to long-term care, with an increase in emergency department transfers.

“The findings really highlight the need for a stronger focus on transitional care, especially for vulnerable older people who are being discharged from hospital to long-term care, and who often need more support to continue to get better,” says Gruneir.

Older women living in the community are more likely to rely on children for support, compared to older men who are more frequently cared for by their living spouse, according to another report2 by Gruneir, released in November 2011.

“Most older people are women, and most are living with multiple chronic conditions,” Gruneir explains. “Also, most of these women are living without the benefit of a spouse’s care and support.”

With more supportive transitional systems, Gruneir hopes that vulnerable older people will be healthier and better supported. And so will their spouses as well as busy “sandwich generation” children.

“To develop effective new models that address these gaps and shortfalls in our health-care system, we need to understand where the weaknesses lie,” says Gruneir. “That’s what my work is focused on.”

> read article

1 Gruneir A, Bronskill S, Bell CM, Gill SS, Schull M, Ma X, Anderson GM, Rochon PA. Recent Health Care Transitions and Emergency Department Use by Chronic Long- Term Care Residents: A Population-Based Cohort Study. JAMDA, 2011 Nov 7 [Epub ahead of print].
2 Bronskill SE, Corbett L, Gruneir A, Stevenson JE. Introduction. In: Bronskill Se, Camacho X, Gruneir A, Ho MM, editors. Health System Use by Frail Ontario Seniors: An in-depth examination of four vulnerable cohorts. Toronto, ON: Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences; 2011.


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