Use of in-patient hospital beds by people living in residential care

Paul Finucane, Rachel Wundke, Craig Whitehead, Lou Williamson, Christopher Baggoley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is concern that people living in residential care in Australia make significant and often inappropriate use of acute in-patient hospital services. To date, no factual information has been collected in Australia and its absence may allow myths and negative stereotypes to proliferate. Objective: To determine how and why people living in residential care in Australia use inpatient hospital beds. To determine the outcome of hospitalisation and functional status at 3 months following discharge. Methods: Prospective study of 184 consecutive admissions to hospital following Emergency Department (ED) attendance involving people aged over 65 years and living in residential care in southern Adelaide, South Australia. Information was obtained from the facilities' transfer letters, and where these were inadequate or absent, telephone interviews were held with residential care staff. Results: 153 people accounted for the 184 admissions. They had a mean age of 84 years and 69% were female. 61% came from hostels and 35% from nursing homes. They had a wide range of clinical problems and twice as many were admitted to medical than to surgical units. Their mean length of hospital stay was 7.9 days, 2.3 days higher than for non-same-day patients and was higher for hostel than for nursing home residents. All but two admissions were considered unavoidable though the provision of specialised care within residential care could have prevented a further 19 (10%) admissions. 96% of admissions resulted in survival to leave hospital and in 74%, people returned directly to their place of origin. At 3 months follow-up, a further 20% of the group had died while 5% were in hospital. In all, 14% of the original group were in a different longterm care facility while 56% were living at their former residence. Conclusions: People living in residential care are often hospitalised because of acute illness. In the vast majority of cases hospitalisation is both appropriate and unavoidable. Most did not require prolonged hospitalisation and were discharged alive, usually to their original residence. However, within 3 months many had died or had functionally declined. Strategies that prevent health breakdown in the residential care setting need to be developed and trialed. Copyright (C) 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-138
Number of pages6
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2000


  • Elderly
  • Hospitalisation
  • Residential care


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