Objectives: Health outcomes among older emergency department (ED) patients may be influenced by physical, economic, and psychological problems not routinely identified during the ED visit. The objective of this study was to characterize such problems among older adults presenting to the ED.
Methods: This was a prevalence study with enrollment during 4-hour periods randomly selected between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. on random days of the week over a period of 8 weeks at an academic ED in the southeast United States. Participants were noninstitutionalized, cognitively intact adults aged 65 years or older without life-threatening illness or injury. Consenting patients were asked about the frequency of 10 prespecified problems during the past year.
Results: Patients (N = 138) were non-Hispanic white (69%) and female (57%) and almost all had primary providers (95%) and health insurance (98%). Forty percent reported their overall health as fair (21%) or poor (19%). Hazardous drinking habits were reported by 10% of patients. The prevalence of problems occurring either "sometimes" or "often" in the past year were pain (60%), difficulty walking (47%), lack of money (32%), isolation and loneliness (14%), lack of transportation (12%), difficulty scheduling a doctor's appointment (4%), difficulty getting prescriptions filled (4%), and lack of dental care (6%). Nine patients (7%) reported experiencing physical or psychological abuse at some point in the past year. Females, minorities, and individuals living in urban areas reported higher rates of most problems.
Conclusions: Nonmedical problems are common among cognitively intact, independent living, non-critically ill older patients presenting to an ED in the southeast United States.
© 2014 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine.