Use of Emergency Departments by the Elderly in Rural Areas

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Sparse information is available concerning use of emergency departments (EDs) by the elderly in rural areas. We reviewed records of all patients seeking care at EDs of three rural hospitals during 7 days in October 1991. We found that elderly people did not use EDs in proportion to their numbers in the community (15.2% versus 19.3%). Compared with younger ED patients, more elderly patients required an ambulance (40.8% versus 10.7%), more needed hospitalization (38.4% versus 11.9%), and their ED stays were longer (140 minutes versus 89 minutes). Falls/injuries (18.7%) and cardiac illness (18.1%) were the most frequent reasons for ED visits by the elderly, and relatively few (2.8%) had confusion. More elderly patients arrived during daytime hours than during the night, and more on weekends than weekdays. Also, we found no difference between patients in the 65- to 74-year-old age group and those aged 75 years and older.