Discussion On Older Homeless Mortality Rates, Future Research

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Rebecca T. Brown, MD, MPH, describes contributing factors to older homeless adult mortality and future topics of interest in this field.

A recent study by University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) investigators demonstrated rising rates of elderly homelessness, as well as the 2 main factors associated with mortality rates among this population.

Multivariable analyses of 117 homeless adults aged ≥50, surveyed in an Oakland-based study known as the HOPE HOME study, found that heart disease and cancer were the 2 leading causes of mortality.

The study’s author Rebecca T. Brown, MD, MPH, of the Division of Geriatrics in the University of California, San Francisco Department of Medicine spoke on HCPLive about her colleagues and her research on the topic.

“So, I would say there’s multiple factors contributing,” Brown said. “One is that when you’re experiencing homelessness, homelessness is a major competing demand for self care.”

Brown expressed concern about the ability for older homeless adults to receive medical care at all, given the added difficulties associated with not having housing or access to transportation. Brown added that it is difficult for a homeless adult to be treated for a health concern “even if you know you have heart disease, which many people may not know that they do, if they are not seeing a physician regularly.”

In addition, Brown discussed the topics she would like to learn more about having done this research. She added that nursing home use among homeless populations in the over 50 age bracket was something she was interested in doing more research into, as it is not a well-researched topic with regard to homelessness.

“We haven’t dived into the data yet, but there’s a lot of younger folks who are in and out of nursing homes,” Brown said. “So I think it would be really interesting to understand the use of nursing homes more and how that can be prevented in this population.”