More elderly people hospitalized due to neglect, nursing home waitlists
Doctors are seeing more and more elderly people end up in the emergency room due to neglect, according to a survey by the AD. Clinical geriatricians believe this issue will only intensify as waitlists for elderly care and staff shortages both increase.
Often, elderly people will come to the hospital with diseases left untreated for too long, malnourishment or advanced dementia, according to the AD. The reason is a shortage of long-term, nursing home care options for elderly people who are no longer able to live on their own.
"We get desperate GPs on the phone who have nowhere to go with their patients. They see that things are no longer going well at home, but there is insufficient home care and no place in a nursing home," said chairman Esther Cornegé-Blokland of the Dutch Association for Clinical Geriatrics (NVKG).
The number of elderly people on the waiting list to be admitted to a nursing home shot up by 4,000 this year to a total of 20,000 people. Meanwhile, nursing homes and home care agencies are extremely understaffed, a trend that is predicted to grow over time, according to the AD.
Although there are no exact statistics on how many more elderly people are getting hospitalized because of this, clinical geriatricians say they see a noticeable increase. “These elderly get wound infections and are neglected because they can no longer take care of themselves and each other," said Annemijn Elskamp of the Franciscus Gasthuis & Vlietland. "GPs know that these people do not belong in the hospital, but no longer know what to do with them.”
Once they are in the hospital, elderly people often have to stay stay longer than they should because of lack of appropriate care. Doctors estimated up to 55 percent of hospital beds are devoted to elderly people waiting to be discharged from the hospital.
One solution could be care homes, which the Cabinet abolished in 2013, according to the AD. Care homes provided a halfway point between nursing homes and hospitals. However, they were done away with to focus resources toward other types of elderly care. "We always thought it was a bad idea that they were abolished," Judith Wilmer, a clinical geriatrician in Brabant hospital, told the AD.
Doctors foresee that the current crisis will only grow as more elderly people require care and fewer trained professionals are able to help them. “I think in a few years we will be jealous of the care we provide now," said Cornegé-Blokland of the NVKG. "This is also a major crisis that we will notice more and more."