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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

On-line version ISSN 1680-5348Print version ISSN 1020-4989


DUARTE, Yeda Aparecida de Oliveira; LEBRAO, Maria Lúcia  and  LIMA, Fernão Dias de. The contribution of living arrangements in the provision of care for elderly persons with functional impairments in São Paulo, Brazil. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2005, vol.17, n.5-6, pp.370-378. ISSN 1680-5348.

OBJECTIVES:  To describe the functional performance, need for assistance, and living arrangements of elderly persons in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, as part of a project called Health, Well-being, and Aging in Latin America and the Caribbean (the "SABE project"). METHODS:  In 2000, 2 143 individuals 60 years of age or older were interviewed, using the standardized SABE questionnaire. The sample was obtained in two stages, using census sectors with replacement and probability proportional to population. To have the desired number of respondents 75 or older, additional homes close to the selected census sectors were found, with weighting of the final results. The functional performance of the elderly persons was measured in terms of their ability to perform basic activities of daily living (walking across a room, eating, lying down on a bed and getting up from it, using the bathroom, dressing and undressing, and bathing) and to carry out instrumental activities of daily living (buying and preparing food, performing light and heavy household chores, using the telephone, taking medications, and handling money). Functional impairment was defined as the need for assistance in performing at least one of the basic or instrumental activities. There were 66 types of living arrangements (household composition) identified and grouped into seven categories, according to with whom an elderly person lived and whether the other residents of the household were relatives or not. RESULTS:   Of the individuals interviewed, 19.2% presented a functional impairment in basic activities and 26.5% in instrumental activities. The impairments were more common among women and among persons 75 or older. The proportion of elderly persons with an impairment who received help with basic activities ranged from 25.6% (lying down on the bed and getting up) to 70.5% (eating). With instrumental activities, the proportion receiving assistance ranged from 79.7% (light domestic chores) to 97.8% (buying food). With respect to living arrangements, the single largest group (32.1%) of elderly persons lived with the spouse and children or with just the children; the next largest group (20.0%) lived with just the spouse. The living arrangement in which the highest proportion (56.4%) of elderly persons with functional impairments received help was living with nonrelatives. CONCLUSIONS:  The elderly persons with functional impairments in São Paulo are not receiving enough assistance from their family members or other persons with whom they live. Further, there are no public policies in Brazil to fill this gap. Taking into account the country's aging population, the health care system in Brazil is at risk of becoming not only inadequate but chaotic.

Keywords : Activities of daily living; aging; family relations.

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