Older Persons in the Acute Care Setting

Over half of acute hospital bed days are used by older people, so in many ways acute care is about caring for older people. People aged 70 and over usually have two or three chronic health conditions, and older people are more likely to need multiple drugs for multiple conditions. Often, older adults in acute care suffer from multisystem conditions and these complex problems and their management can become the focus of care. The problem with this is that other aspects of their person can sometimes be forgotten - such things as their strengths, social situation, and normal level of function.

A nurse interacting with a patient

Nurses in acute care settings need to ensure that care of older people is integrated and individualised. It is important that risks of further problems are assessed and prevented. Some of the common reasons for older adults coming into acute care include: stroke, cardiac failure and arrhythmias, dehydration, pneumonia and hip fractures, as well as a range of surgeries.

Thinking Challenge

According to the document, Older Australians in Hospital (see web link below), the ageing of the Australian population will affect the demand for, and provision of, hospital services into the future.

  • According to this document, what kinds of conditions can we expect to see a significant number of older people managing in the future?
  • What are the trends in relation to the gender distribution of older hospital inpatients?
  • What will be the main conditions causing disability in older people in years to come?
  • What are the main hazards to older people when they are hospitalized?