Transitional care of older adults

Annu Rev Nurs Res. 2002:20:127-47.


This chapter reviews 94 published research reports on transitional care of older adults by nurse researchers and researchers from other disciplines. Reports were identified through searches of MEDLINE, CINAHL, HealthSTAR, Sociological Abstracts and PsycINFO using combinations of the following search terms: transitional care, discharge planning, care coordination, case management, continuity of care, referrals, postdischarge follow-up, patient assessment, patient needs, interventions, and evaluation. Reports were included if published between 1985 and 2001, if conducted on samples age 55 and older, if relevant to nursing research, and if published in English. Intervention studies had to have a control or comparison group and a test for statistical significance. Four key findings from this review were identified. A high proportion of elders and their caregivers report substantial unmet transitional care needs, with the need for information and increased access to services consistently among the top priorities. Differences in expectations between and among patients, families, and health care providers, and the need for increased patient and family involvement in decision making, are common themes in discharge planning studies. Gaps in communication have been identified through the discharge planning process. Evidence about the effects of innovations in transitional care on quality and cost outcomes is sparse. Four main recommendations are made. Differences in older adults' transitional care needs based on race, ethnicity, and educational level, with attention to potential disparities, require further study. Studies of strategies to promote effective involvement of patients and families in decision making throughout discharge planning are needed. The development and testing of referral and other information systems designed to promote the transfer of accurate and complete information across sites of care should be a research focus. A priority for future research should be continued study of strategies to improve transitional care outcomes of older adults and their caregivers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Clinical Nursing Research
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Geriatric Nursing*
  • Humans