Background Few investigators have targeted elderly patients and monitored outcomes of care in studies on discharge planning interventions after critical illness.

Objectives To pilot test an intensive care unit–based nursing screening intervention to assist in determining the discharge needs and outcomes of critically ill elderly patients.

Method A randomized clinical trial with in-hospital and mailed questionnaires was used. Patients 65 years and older who were hospitalized in 1 of 2 intensive care units at 2 midwestern university-affiliated medical centers were recruited for the study. Control patients (n = 53) received usual discharge planning; experimental patients (n = 47) were screened in the intensive care unit by using the Discharge Planning Questionnaire. Both groups were assessed for readiness for discharge when discharged from the hospital and were followed up 2 weeks later with a survey completed at home.

Results One hundred patients 65 to 90 years old (mean 73, SD 5.78) completed the study. Sixty-six percent were men. The 2 groups did not differ with regard to age, race, sex, severity of illness, lengths of stay in the intensive care unit or hospital, education level, or income. Patients in the experimental group were more ready than patients in the control group for discharge (P = .06). Patients in the experimental group were also more likely to report they had adequate information, had less concern about managing their care at home, knew their medicines, and knew danger signals indicating potential complications.

Conclusion Intensive care unit–based early discharge planning can affect elderly patients’ preparation for discharge.

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