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Gerontologist. 2003 Apr;43 Spec No 2:28-36.

Definition, measurement, and correlates of quality of life in nursing homes: toward a reasonable practice, research, and policy agenda.

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Division of Health Services Research and Policy, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, 420 Delaware Street SE, Box 197, D-527 Mayo Building, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.



This article identifies challenges in defining, measuring, and studying quality of life of nursing home residents.


A theoretical analysis was conducted based on literature and the author's own large-scale studies of quality of life of nursing home residents.


Measuring quality of life is a relatively low priority in nursing homes because of focus on markers of poor quality of care, pervasive sense that nursing homes are powerless to influence quality of life, and impatience with research among those dedicated to culture change. The research argues that the resident voice must be sought in reaching operational definitions for quality of life and as reporters on the quality of their own lives, and that resident burden is a spurious concern that should not deter direct interviews with residents. Five challenges in measuring quality of life were identified: (a) designing questions with appropriate response categories and time frames, (b) developing a sampling strategy, (c) aggregating information at the individual and facility level, (d) validating what are ultimately subjective constructs, and (e) developing an approach using observations and proxies to assess quality of life for approximately the 40% of the residents who will be impossible to interview.


Although residents' perceived quality of life is partly a product of their health, social supports, and personalities, nursing homes can directly influence quality of life through their policies, practices, and environments, and, indirectly, through their approaches to family and community. A research agenda is needed, which includes both methodological research and studies of the correlates of quality of life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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