Quality of life in older adult care homes: comparing office hours with out-of-office hours

Smith N, Towers A, Palmer S, Collins G

Journal of Long-term Care 2019, November, 153—163

Available online 11 Nov 2019


Poorer mortality rates and quality of care in hospitals outside of office hours is well documented. The literature on adult social (long-term) care, and in particular, care homes, is much less developed. There are, however, a few studies that suggest that outside of Monday to Friday between 9.00am and 16.30pm, quality of care in care homes might be lower.

The objective of this study was to compare the social care-related quality of life (SCRQoL) of residents in older adult care homes during office hours (0900 to 16.30) with outside of office hours (evenings and weekends).

We conducted a nested, cross-sectional study, collecting SCRQoL data using the Adult Social Care Outcomes Toolkit at two time points, office hours (Monday-Friday between 9.00 and 16.30) and outside of office hours. We did not examine nigh times in the homes. Data were collected for 99 older adult care home residents in 13 care homes (5 residential and 8 nursing) and analysed using a combination of non-parametric and parametric techniques.

SCRQoL ratings were lower during the weekends and early evenings than during office hours. The differences were most pronounced in the higher order domains of social participation, occupation and control over daily life.

The study struggled to explain this variation. This work was both exploratory and small in size. We also did not collect data on levels of staffing.

Further work is required to both confirm our findings and explore the reasons for the difference. Nonetheless, this study challenges the traditional model of care, in which social activities and meaningful pastimes are mostly organised during ‘office hours’. We observed evenings that were very short, as residents tended to return to their room shortly after dinner, and quiet weekends, and this was reflected in residents’ quality of life. This is contrary to the rhetoric of care homes being people’s own homes, where they would be able to choose to remain active and engaged into the evening and on the weekends, as they may have done throughout their lives.