Older people who are cared for in specialist geriatric units have a better chance of returning home after discharge than those cared for in conventional hospital units, finds a study published on bmj.com today.
They are also more likely to remain mobile and be able to carry out usual daily activities, such as dressing, eating or bathing.
Researchers in Madrid reviewed 11 studies that compared care provided in acute geriatric units (AGUs) run by specialist elderly care teams with conventional hospital units.
Patients in these studies were aged 65 years and over and had acute medical problems, such as pneumonia, heart failure, urinary tract infections or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which did not require treatment in other specialised units.
The majority of patients were followed for three months after discharge from hospital.
They found that AGU care reduced functional decline (ability to carry out usual daily activities) at discharge and increased the probability of returning home to live at discharge and remaining at home three months after leaving hospital.
These benefits were not associated with increased fatalities or costs of hospital care.
The authors suggest that the effectiveness of AGU care may be down to comprehensive geriatric assessment and care by specialised multidisciplinary teams and a focus on early discharge planning.
They also suggest that more studies are needed to evaluate whether these benefits are maintained in the long term.