Experiences of family members of elderly patients in the emergency department: a qualitative study

Int Emerg Nurs. 2012 Oct;20(4):193-200. doi: 10.1016/j.ienj.2012.08.003. Epub 2012 Sep 18.


Background: Elderly patients are more frequent users of emergency department (ED). An elderly patient entering the ED is often accompanied by a family member who has an important role in the patient's life. Current literature does not adequately address the question of the experiences of family members accompanying elderly patient in ED, although they could give us valuable and interesting knowledge and information about nursing practices.

Aim: The aim of this study was to describe the experiences of family members of elderly patients aged over 65 in the ED for internal medicine.

Method: This interview study based on the experiences of family members (n=9) of elderly patients being cared for in the ED. The interview material was analyzed using inductive content analysis.

Results: Family members of elderly patients perceived themselves as satisfied participants, invisible participants, or disappointed outsiders in the ED. Family members accompanying an elderly patient wanted to be active participants not being excluded, but this was possible only because of their own active attitude.

Conclusions: Broader educational initiative for ED staff about the family presence and involvement in care in the ED is needed, because the family members' experiences showed that they were left as outsiders. Family members are well aware of the elderly patient's previous level of functional capacity and their medication, which is decisive information when planning further care and thinking patients coping at home.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Finland
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nuclear Family
  • Professional-Family Relations*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Health Care*
  • Social Support