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Factors associated with recurrent emergency department visits among people living with dementia: a retrospective cohort study


Background — Research on factors associated with recurrent emergency department (ED) visits and their implications for improving dementia care is lacking. The objective of this study was to examine associations between the individual characteristics of older adults living with dementia and recurrent ED visits.

Methods — We used health administrative databases to conduct a population-based retrospective cohort study among older adults with dementia in Ontario, Canada. We included community-dwelling adults 66 years and older who visited the ED between April 1, 2010, and March 31, 2019 and were discharged home. We recorded all ED visits within one year after the baseline visit. We used recurrent event Cox regression to examine associations between repeat ED visits and individual clinical, demographic, and health service use characteristics. We fit conditional inference trees to identify the most important factors and define subgroups of varying risk.

Results — Our cohort included 175,863 older adults with dementia. ED use in the year prior to baseline had the strongest association with recurrent visits (3+ vs.0 adjusted hazard ratio (aHR): 1.92 (1.89, 1.94), 2vs.0 aHR: 1.45 (1.43, 1.47), 1vs.0 aHR: 1.23 (1.21, 1.24)). The conditional inference tree utilized history of ED visits and comorbidity count to define 12 subgroups with ED revisit rates ranging from 0.79 to 7.27 per year. Older adults in higher risk groups were more likely to live in rural and low-income areas and had higher use of anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, and benzodiazepines.

Conclusions — History of ED visits may be a useful measure to identify older adults with dementia who would benefit from additional interventions and supports. A substantial proportion of older adults with dementia have a pattern of recurrent visits and may benefit from dementia-friendly and geriatric-focused EDs. Collaborative medication review in the ED and closer follow-up and engagement with community supports could improve patient care and experience.



Jones A, Watt JA, Maclagan LC, Swayze S, Jaakkimainen L, Schull MJ, Bronskill SE. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2023; Jun 14 [Epub ahead of print].

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