Estimates of crowding in long-term care: Comparing two approaches

Donna L. Algase, Cathy Antonakos, Elizabeth Beattie, Cynthia Beel-Bates, Jun Ah Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Because studies of crowding in long-term care settings are lacking, the authors sought to: (1) generate initial estimates of crowding in nursing homes and assisted living facilities; and (2) evaluate two operational approaches to its measurement. Background: Reactions to density and proximity are complex. Greater density intensifies people's reaction to a situation in the direction (positive or negative) that they would react if the situation were to occur under less dense conditions. People with dementia are especially reactive to the environment. Methods: Using a cross-sectional correlational design in nursing homes and assisted living facilities involving 185 participants, multiple observations (N = 6,455) of crowding and other environmental variables were made. Crowding, location, and sound were measured three times per observation; ambiance was measured once. Data analyses consisted of descriptive statistics, t-tests, and one-way analysis of variance. Results: Crowding estimates were higher for nursing homes and in dining and activity rooms. Crowding also varied across settings and locations by time of day. Overall, the interaction of location and time affected crowding significantly (N = 5,559, df [47,511], F = 105.69, p < .0001); effects were greater within location-by-hour than between location-by-hour, but the effect explained slightly less variance in Long-Term Care Crowding Index (LTC-CI) estimates (47.41%) than location alone. Crowding had small, direct, and highly significant correlations with sound and with the engaging subscale for ambiance; a similar, though inverse, correlation was seen with the soothing subscale for ambiance. Conclusions: Crowding fluctuates consistent with routine activities such as meals in long-term care settings. Furthermore, a relationship between crowding and other physical characteristics of the environment was found. The LTC-CI is likely to be more sensitive than simple people counts when seeking to evaluate the effects of crowding on the behavior of elders-particularly those with dementia-in long-term care settings. aging in place.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-74
Number of pages14
JournalHealth Environments Research and Design Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Geriatrics
  • Long-term care
  • Measures
  • Nursing
  • Observational methods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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