Objectives: To compare group perceptions of reasons for emergency department care, ED use patterns, and the effect of illness on self-care ability for elderly and younger adult patients. Design: Patient survey. Setting: Six geographically distinct US hospital EDs. Participants: From each site, a stratified sample (approximately 7:3) of elderly (65 years and older) and nonelderly (21 to 64 years old) control ED patients treated during the same time period was contacted. Methods: Three hundred ninety-nine elderly patients and 172 adult controls were interviewed using a structured survey instrument. Groups were compared using χ2 analysis and the Mann-Whitney Utest. Results: Both the elderly and the control patients (49% versus 38%) commonly stated that the most important reason for coming to the ED was because they were "too sick to wait for an office visit". Of patients with a regular physician, both groups often were referred to the ED by their primary care provider (35% versus 26%). While the elderly had more visits to their primary care provider (3.3 versus 2.9 visits; P < .00001), there was no difference in the number of ED visits (1.5 versus 1.6 visits) during the preceding six months. Of those released from the ED, more elderly noted deterioration in their ability to care for themselves as a result of their illness (21% versus 11%; P< .03). Conclusion: The elderly use the ED for reasons similar to those for younger adults. Often they feel too ill to wait for an office visit or are referred in by their primary care provider. Elderly patients more commonly have difficulty with self care after release home, and emergency physicians must plan accordingly.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine