Fears that the ageing population would overwhelm healthcare resources haven’t quite come to pass, says new research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
In fact, older people are less likely to need life-support treatment in hospital and more likely to survive when they do, according to a 12-year study of more than 100,000 people aged 65 and older.
Improved survival did not result in longer hospital stays, more nursing home patients or more deaths in other hospital wards.
The number of older patients admitted to an ICU (Intensive Care Unit) stopped growing in 2004 and has since declined.
This was despite the number of older people in the community growing by 2.5% a year and despite the expansion of ICU services (4.7% a year).
Dr Graeme Duke, a senior staff specialist at the intensive care department of Box Hill Hospital in Melbourne, and his coauthors, wrote that the results were “consistent with an improvement in the overall care of this important and potentially vulnerable older population”.
The decline in hospital mortality was observed in all age groups and all severe illness categories.
The authors suggested several plausible explanations, including better-informed patients, and improvements in quality of hospital care, screening and preventive health and and minimally invasive surgery.