Uncontroversial truths; Discussing urgent care for older people

Stuart Parker is Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Newcastle University and a consultant physician at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust where he is helping to develop an acute inpatient service for frail older people. Here he discusses the Urgent care for frail older people – Hospital Wide Comprehensive Geriatric Assessment Meeting on 25 May in Leeds.

Frailty is now widely recognised as a key component of declining health and function in old age.  Older people with urgent care needs are particularly likely to experience frailty.  New acute illness can trigger the onset of frailty in an older person who, in whom the limits of their functional capacity may be urgently revealed. Older people are increasingly the main users of urgent care services. Accordingly, urgent care services for older people need to be able to recognise, evaluate and manage frailty. Continue reading

Using a frailty index in the Emergency Department

Dr Audrey-Anne Brousseau is the first fellow in geriatric emergency medicine in Canada. She was recently appointed as assistant professor at the Université de Sherbrooke in Quebec. Her work focuses on developing best practices for older adults in the emergency department.

EDs are often the safety net of the health care system where the mission is to (rapidly) evaluate, intervene and organize transitions of care. With the aging of the population and the growing presence of older adults in EDs, this mission represents a significant challenge because older adults are complex on multiple levels.

How do we determine whether a patient is fit to go back home — or not?  Needs admission —  or not? Would benefit from rehabilitation, additional community services, further assessment — or not?  A comprehensive geriatric assessment will provide this answer, but is rarely readily available in most EDs. Moreover, human and material resources are often limited in public health care system preventing all older adults ED patients to get a geriatric assessment and appropriate interventions. Continue reading

Blue Ribbon Patient: Do Not Transfer

Rick Strang RN is Emergency Care Improvement Lead at Isle of Wight NHS Trust in England. When not involved in all types of emergency care Rick is usually finding innovative ways to avoid household chores.

Most of us across acute care have been involved in late night bed pressures that call for that dreaded decision to need to move some patients around between wards. Typically we see the only beds available to be surgical ones whilst the demand is for acute medical beds. Moving acute medical patients directly to these outlying beds from the emergency department (ED) may present too much of a risk. Lower acuity patients from acute wards are therefore often sought out to be transferred into these surgical beds thus making way for the more acute ED demand. End of Life (EoL) patients seem particularly at risk of being moved, which can be very distressing for families, friends, the patient and the care teams. Continue reading

Take time to talk! The importance of an informant history

Adam Dyer is a Final Year Medical Student in Trinity College Dublin. Dr. Sean Kennelly (MB PhD FRCPI) is a Consultant Physician in Geriatric and Stroke Medicine in Tallaght Hospital (Dublin, Ireland) and a Clinical Senior Lecturer in Medical Gerontology at Trinity College Dublin (TCD). The following work was presented as a platform presentation at the 64th Irish Gerontological Society Meeting in Killarney, Ireland (October, 2016).

Imagine you’re seeing a consult or you’re on a post-take ward round. How often do we examine a patient and identify cognitive deficits, see that the CT brain scan report and the MMSE score are readily on hand, but then ask staff about the patient’s premorbid cognition and function and are met with blank expressions?

An important factor which complicates the presentation of older people to acute hospitals is the presence of impaired cognitive status (either in the form of dementia, delirium or both). Continue reading

Identifying frailty in hospital

Professor Kenneth Rockwood has published more than 300 peer-reviewed scientific publications and seven books, including the seventh edition of the Brocklehurst’s Textbook of Geriatric Medicine & Gerontology. He is the Kathryn Allen Weldon Professor of Alzheimer research at Dalhousie University, and a staff internist and geriatrician at the Capital District Health Authority in Halifax in Canada. 

Last autumn, at a meeting of the Acute Frailty Network in London, I sat in on a discussion group about identifying frailty in acutely ill older people who come to hospital. Although some participants noted objections about such screening in some quarters, with this audience, there was no need to discuss why it makes sense to identify people at greater risk than their age peers of being harmed by usual hospital care.

Before moving on, let’s consider for a moment why anyone might object to screening for baseline frailty in patients who presented to A&E.  For those who see it as reasonable to screen for frailty it almost seems that those who don’t believe that it somehow encourages frail patients unnecessarily to seek hospital care.  Continue reading

Time to Up our Game (TUG) in the management of falls!

Debra Eagles is a Resident in Emergency Medicine at The Ottawa Hospital in Canada. Here she discusses her recent Age & Ageing paper.

970Your medical student reviews a case with you.  It is a 78 year old woman who presents with right knee pain subsequent to a recent fall.  The student has taken a comprehensive falls history and physical examination.  After reviewing the knee x-ray, the student summarizes the case by stating the patient suffered a mechanical fall, luckily without evidence of fracture and can be discharged home.  But wait, you say, can she safely mobilize?  The medical student smiles triumphantly, yes, she was able to use her walker to ambulate a short distance.  Excellent, you say, she can be discharged home.  But you wonder, is there anything further you can do to determine what her risk of negative outcomes associated with falling is. Continue reading

Choosing the right care for people from nursing homes: Hobson’s Choice, Morton’s Fork or Buridan’s Ass?

Glenn Arendts is Associate Professor in Emergency Medicine at the University of Western Australia and Chair of the Geriatric Special Interest Group of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine. He writes about his Age & Age paper. 

donkeyHobson’s Choice: A choice where there is really only one option
Morton’s fork: A choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives
Buridan’s Ass: A hungry donkey placed equal distance from two identical bales of hay cannot use reason to choose between them, and so dies of hunger

Take a straw poll of hospital emergency department (ED) staff and you will find majority support for the following statement: “too many people from nursing homes are sent to the ED”. That your poll results may say something about the views of some hospital staff toward nursing home (NH) residents is immaterial. Acute medical care of dependent people with life limiting illness is an area of legitimate concern, and the prevailing orthodoxy is that ED is a less than ideal place to deliver it. For decades, health services have invested in a variety of programs and interventions to reduce the transfer from NH to ED. Continue reading

Paramedics; Frailty detection and admission avoidance

Dr Amy Heskett works as a Speciality Doctor within the West Kent Urgent Care Home Treatment Service. This team aims to prevent hospital admissions by working alongside GPs, nurses, carers and paramedics to provide a holistic management plan. She writes a blog about her experiences on her blog communitydoctoramy.wordpress.com and can be found on twitter @mrsapea

paramedics-photoThe West Kent Home Treatment Service provides home-based medical treatments to avoid hospital admissions when appropriate. Referrals come from GPs, Community Nurses and Paramedics; but more importantly our team widens as soon as we start to work with patients, their family and carers.

A day of referrals began with a call from a Paramedic who had attended V after she had fallen in her bedroom, but luckily sustained no injury. This was on a background of dementia and the need for daily support from her son to assist with meals, prompt medications and support trips made outside the home. V’s only other medical history was that of hypertension and one fall a year ago. V was normally able to get herself to the toilet and used a stick to mobilise slowly indoors; while carers attended once a day to provide personal care. Continue reading

A Bespoke Blue Light Response to Frail Older Fallers: Makes Complete Sense – But Does It Work?

Spencer Winch is a specialist paramedic in urgent care and a trainee advanced clinical practitioner in emergency care. He has a special interest in falls and care of the frail older patient and his time is currently split between the ambulance service, the local emergency department and a masters degree in advanced clinical practice. @spencerlwinch

Anna Puddy, Kate Ellis, Gill Carlill, Josie Caffrey, Claire Wiggett and Moyra Pugh are all advanced hospital based occupational therapists specialising in emergency, acute and elderly care. @TheRealAnnaPud, @OTMoyra, @CaffreyJosie

South Western Ambulance VX09FYPWith falls in patients over the age of 65 making up 8.5% of the emergency workload locally, paramedics and the ambulance service have found themselves in a prime position to assess, treat and discharge this cohort of patients pre-hospitally. This upholds Keogh’s vision that care and treatment should be delivered closer to home without the need for hospital, and is being achieved by ambulance crews on a daily basis as highlighted in a consultant paramedic colleague’s (NWAmb_Duncan – link to BGS blog) recent blog. Higher education and degree based programmes for the paramedic profession now encourage more thorough assessment of injury and illness and thoughts around causative factors of falls, length of lie and potential for acute kidney injury. Those that are discharged on scene are then flagged to the community falls prevention teams for mobility, functionality and care assessment provided by nurse and therapists. With increasing demand on all NHS healthcare agencies, these assessments are not instantaneous and literature would suggest that those who have fallen, are likely to fall again within 24 hours without immediate intervention. Continue reading

Do pharmacists have a role in reducing emergency admissions?

Alyson Huntley is a Research Fellow at the University of Bristol’s Centre of Academic Primary Care. She has recently published a systematic review of pharmacist-led interventions to reduce unplanned admissions for older people.EmergencyAvoidance

The expansion of the pharmacist’s role as a contributor to patient’s health has been championed over the last couple of decades.  In addition to their traditional role, pharmacists contribute to the care of people with long term conditions by carrying out medication reviews, promoting healthy lifestyles, and supporting self-care.

The older people become, the more medications they are likely to be taking (both prescribed drugs and self-medication) leading to an increased risk of adverse reactions, interaction between drugs and poor adherence. Continue reading