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Pressure on EDs set to rise with ageing population, study warns

Are emergency departments properly geared up to meeting the needs of an older patient demographic?

A Boston University School of Medicine trend assessment predicts steadily rising pressure on emergency departments (EDs) as senior citizen numbers grow.

In 2013, there were 44.7 million Americans over 65, making up 14.1% of the population.

By 2040, that percentage will have risen to 21.7%. And by 2060, the number of over-65s will have more than doubled from today’s levels to 98 million.

Acute facilities’ use

Researchers considered acute facilities from the perspective of older patients, who account for 15% of ED visits in the States.

Unsurprisingly, the highest numbers were patients over the age of 75.

The conclusion was that as the population ages, the percentage of over-65s using EDs will ‘continue to rise significantly’. This will drive up the overall cost of healthcare.

Making EDs older people friendly

Geriatric patients are often sicker than their younger counterparts, and may lack ‘classic features’ of disease states.

EDs need to recognise delirium in elderly patients as an essential component of geriatric medicine, adds the report.

However, lead author Dr Joseph Khan of the Boston Medical Center is heartened by a growing US movement to make EDs friendlier towards elderly patients. 

Kahn JH, Magauran BG, Olshaker JS et al (2016) Current trends in geriatric emergency medicine. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America. 34, 3, 435-52.

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