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Older adults in ED face increased risk of long-term disability: Study

Emergency department visits may have negative lasting effects on older adults.

By
Amy Wallace
Researchers at Yale University found that older adults who go to the emergency department are at increased risk of long-term disability or decline up to six months after their visit. Photo by BillionPhotos.com/Shutterstock
Researchers at Yale University found that older adults who go to the emergency department are at increased risk of long-term disability or decline up to six months after their visit. Photo by BillionPhotos.com/Shutterstock

NEW HAVEN, Conn., Jan. 6 (UPI) -- A Yale University study has found that older adults who go to the emergency department, or ED, have an increased risk of disability or decline in physical abilities up to six months later.

Previous studies have examined the impact hospitalizations have on adults over the age of 65, but few have studied if those same effects occur from ED visits.

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"We know that if older persons go to the hospital and are admitted, they are at increased risk of disability and functional decline," Dr. Justine M. Nagurney, author of the study and a resident in Emergency Medicine at Yale New Haven Hospital, said in a press release. "We should do something to address that."

The costs of medical care and long-term care for newly disabled older adults in the United States is about $26 billion a year, according to studies.

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For the study, researchers used prospective data on more than 700 older adults over a 14-year time period. The team used a scoring system to assess the amount and severity of disability in adults who visited the ED and had been discharged, been hospitalized after an ED visit, or a control group that did not do either. Researchers also analyzed nursing home admissions and mortality after an ED visit.

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Results showed that the group discharged from the ED had a significantly higher disability rate than the control group, and those patients were more likely to be living in a nursing home or die within six months of leaving the ED.

Study participants who were admitted to the hospital had the highest disability rate.

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Researchers said ways to combat the increased risk of disability in older adults is to include assessments of function in the ED, which can be done by care transition coordinators or geriatric specialists.

"Patients may benefit from ED-based initiatives to evaluate and potentially intervene upon changes in disability status," Nagurney said.

The study was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

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