Rural-dwelling older adults experience unique challenges related to accessing medical and social services. This article describes the development, implementation, and experience of a novel, community-based program to identify rural-dwelling older adults with unmet medical and social needs that leveraged the existing emergency medical services (EMS) system. The program specifically included geriatrics training for EMS providers; screening of older adult EMS patients for falls, depression, and medication management strategies by EMS providers; communication of EMS findings to community-based case managers; in-home evaluation by case managers; and referral to community resources for medical and social interventions. Measures used to evaluate the program included patient needs identified by EMS or the in-home assessment, referrals provided to patients, and patient satisfaction. EMS screened 1,231 of 1,444 visits to older patients (85%). Of those receiving specific screens, 45% had fall-related, 69% medication management-related, and 20% depression-related needs identified. One hundred and seventy-one eligible EMS patients who could be contacted accepted the in-home assessment. Of the 153 individuals completing the assessment, 91% had identified needs and received referrals or interventions. This project demonstrated that screening by EMS during emergency care for common geriatric syndromes and linkage to case managers is feasible in this rural community, although many will refuse the services. Further patient evaluations by case managers, with subsequent interventions by existing service providers as required, can facilitate the needed linkages between vulnerable rural-dwelling older adults and needed community-based social and medical services.
© 2010, Copyright the Authors. Journal compilation © 2010, The American Geriatrics Society.