Background

Preventing and managing functional limitations in older adults — including those needing help with bathing, meal preparation, or shopping — is crucial for maintaining independence at home. A study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society looks at the relationship between functional limitations and two factors: having multiple chronic conditions and living in a socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhood. The authors focus on older adults enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, which enroll 31 percent of the Medicare population.

What the Study Found

Overall, more than one-third of the study sample reported having a functional limitation. Beneficiaries with multiple chronic conditions were more likely to report a limitation than those with either no or one chronic conditions. Those in more disadvantaged neighborhoods were more likely to report a functional limitation than those in less disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Conclusions

The authors recommend that Medicare Advantage plan administrators develop area-based interventions to address functional limitations. For instance, creating and supporting self-management programs in poor neighborhoods could help patients’ deal with limitations and ultimately improve health outcomes.