Study objective: To determine the elderly's perception of emergency care and to identify specific problems and solutions.
Design: Focus group interviews.
Setting and type of participants: Community senior citizen centers in Boston; Los Angeles; Pittsburgh; Youngstown, Ohio; and Norwalk, Connecticut. Senior citizens who had had emergency care in the past year participated.
Measurement and results: Participants were satisfied with their overall medical care. Long waits were a hardship for patients and their families. The elderly are not familiar with the process of emergency care. They were frightened by their injury or illness. Their anxiety was not allayed until they were informed of the nature of their illness and what their treatment and disposition was to be. The emergency department environment frequently made them uncomfortable. There was considerable confusion caused by the billing process.
Conclusions: The elderly would benefit from prior or concurrent education regarding emergency care. Staff should be more sensitive to the anxiety felt by the elderly, should explain the reasons for delays in care, and what to expect. Patients should be informed of the nature and seriousness of their illness as soon as possible. Family and friends may be encouraged to stay with patients. The billing process needs to be clarified and simplified.