Influx Of Elderly Patients Forces ER To Practice Comfort Care

From Kaiser Health News:

As the nation’s elderly population swells, more older Americans are visiting the emergency room, which can be an overcrowded, disorienting and even traumatic place. Adults 65 and older made 20.8 million emergency room visits in 2013, up from 16.2 million in 2000, according to the most recent hospital survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey found 1 in 6 visits to the ER were made by an older patient, a proportion that’s expected to rise as baby boomers age.

Half of adults in this age group visit the ER in their last month of life, according to a study in the journal Health Affairs. Of those, half die in the hospital, the study found, even though most people say they’d prefer to die at home.

The influx is prompting more clinicians to rethink what happens in the fast-paced emergency room, where the default is to do everything possible to extend life. Hospitals across the country, including in Ohio, Texas, Virginia and New Jersey, are bringing palliative care, which focuses on improving quality of life for patients with advanced illness, into the emergency department.

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