Little attention is being paid to the special needs of elderly persons in emergency departments. Emergency health care professionals feel less comfortable caring for elderly than for nonelderly patients. The social and personal concerns of the elderly frequently are not addressed in ED encounters. There is a paucity of research and education in geriatric emergency medicine. Overall principles of care for elderly patients seeking emergency care have not been defined as they have for other special populations such as children. The disease-oriented model used for caring for nonelderly adult patients in EDs may not be appropriate for elderly patients. The emergency care of the elderly requires significantly more health care resources than does that of the nonelderly. Compared with nonelderly patients, elderly patients seeking emergency care are four times more likely to use ambulance services, five times more likely to be admitted to the hospital, five times more likely to be admitted to an intensive care bed, and six times more likely to receive comprehensive emergency services. Although 12% of the population is 65 years or older, this group accounted for 36% of all ambulance patient transports to EDs, 43% of all hospital ED admissions, and 48% of all critical care admissions from EDs. These problems are particularly important at this time because many hospitals and their EDs are faced with significant problems of overcrowding and inadequate resources to meet the health care needs of the communities they serve. Although the elderly are the fastest-growing segment of the population, little or no planning is ongoing to meet the emergency health care needs of the elderly in the future. The task force has provided specific recommendations for addressing these problems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine