Why do older people seek emergency care? Causes, circumstances and explanations

PI: Pär Schön, Par.Schon@ki.se

Driven by cost containment measures and by an “aging in place” policy, the Swedish local authorities have reduced institutional care for older people in Sweden. Thus, an increasing proportion of frail older people are dependent on help in their own homes.

In recent years, policy makers, professionals and the general public have paid a lot of attention to the growing number of older people seeking care at the hospital emergency departments (EDs). However, little is known about causes and reasons behind the roughly 1 million ED visits by older people annually in Sweden. There are indications that a substantial number of these visits could have been avoided, but it is not clear whether or not the increasing number of older people seeking ED care is a symptom of deficiencies in other parts of the health and social care systems. In other words, we do not know whether the use of ED care by older people is a consequence of increasing needs in the older population or if the needs could have been met at other care levels.

The overall aim of this project is to study older people’s (80+) pathways to ED care. We will study causes, reasons, and underlying mechanisms behind older people’s frequent ED visits.

Data for this project come from several national and regional registers. Data will also be gathered through an interview survey with patients 80 years and older in ED waiting rooms at two hospitals, one in Stockholm, and one in Dalarna.

The project is funded by the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare (Forte).