Perspectives of Aging Adults Who Frequently Seek Emergency Department Care.
The number of people managing chronic conditions is growing with the rapidly aging population. Visits to the emergency department are steadily rising, but little is known about the rationale of those seeking emergent care.The goal of this study was to better understand, from the patients’ perspective, the reasons for seeking care in an emergency department setting.A qualitative descriptive design was used to interview aging adults with at least two chronic conditions who made three or more visits to the emergency department within a year.The eight-person sample was 88% female and 75% white, with an average age of 54 years.Participant interviews were conducted with a semistructured interview guide. Conventional content analysis was used to examine words and phrases in professionally transcribed documents. Qualitative methods for testing and confirming conclusions were performed.We discovered that aging adults visit the emergency department to seek relief from unrelenting pain and to overcome barriers to receiving treatment for pain in ambulatory settings. Participants reported feeling judged when seeking emergency department care for pain management.Participants described emergency department care as the only option in response to several barriers to healthcare access. Most commonly, emergency department care was sought when relief from persistent or acute pain was required. One way to reduce strain on EDs from pain-related visits is to manage patients with persistent pain more proactively in their community environment.