Publications

Reconsidering Substitution in Long-Term Care: When Does Assistive Technology Take the Place of Personal Care?

Assistive technology (AT) may improve quality of life and reduce dependence for older persons with disabilities. In this article, we examine tradeoffs between the use of AT and reliance on personal care, with attention to factors that may influence those relationships. We jointly modeled hours of formal and informal care with use of AT in order to address the interdependence of these outcomes in ways not taken into account in previous studies. We analyzed a national sample of older persons with difficulty in activities of daily living drawn from Phase 2 of the 1994-1995 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Disability Supplement. Our findings show that the use of AT was associated with reductions in informal care hours, especially for those who were unmarried, better educated, or had better cognitive abilities, but appeared to supplement formal care services for these groups. Individuals with cognitive impairment were less likely than others to substitute AT with either type of personal care. These models raise the possibility that reductions of informal care hours may be accomplished with a combination of formal care and assistive devices, rather than from either alternative alone. OBJECTIVE: Assistive technology (AT) may improve quality of life and reduce dependence for older persons with disabilities. In this article, we examine tradeoffs between the use of AT and reliance on personal care, with attention to factors that may influence those relationships. METHODS: We jointly modeled hours of formal and informal care with use of AT in order to address the interdependence of these outcomes in ways not taken into account in previous studies. We analyzed a national sample of older persons with difficulty in activities of daily living drawn from Phase 2 of the 1994-1995 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) Disability Supplement. RESULTS: Our findings show that the use of AT was associated with reductions in informal care hours, especially for those who were unmarried, better educated, or had better cognitive abilities, but appeared to supplement formal care services for these groups. Individuals with cognitive impairment were less likely than others to substitute AT with either type of personal care. DISCUSSION: These models raise the possibility that reductions of informal care hours may be accomplished with a combination of formal care and assistive devices, rather than from either alternative alone.