Study: Seniors getting shorted on emergency care

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An apparently unconscious age bias among emergency room services personnel, along with a lack of knowledge on how to care for the elderly, could be leading to a distinct lessening of care for seniors, researchers say.

Individuals 65 or older have a 52% less chance of being transported to a trauma center than their younger counterparts, according to a report in this month's issue of the Archives of Surgery, a JAMA/Archive journal.

"Some studies have suggested that age bias may still exist in trauma care, even in the prehospital phase of that care," wrote Johns Hopkins researchers, who studied 10 years of Maryland ambulance service records, and emergency services data.

Even when trauma is recognized and acknowledged by emergency personnel, they are "consistently less likely to consider transporting elderly patients to a trauma center," the researchers found.

 "It may be helpful to highlight the literature that now suggests that elderly trauma patients do, in fact, return to productive lives after their injury, which can eliminate the perception of futility of care that may be used consciously or subconsciously to justify age bias," they concluded.

Emergency personnel interviewed for the study cited the following as top possible reasons for not taking more elderly patients to trauma centers: poor training for managing elderly patients (25.3%), possible age bias (13.4%) and not knowing transportation protocol (12%).