Care needs of older patients in the intensive care units

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To explore the care needs of older patients in the intensive care units.


As the numbers of older patients admitted to the intensive care units are growing, care quality of critically ill older patients has become an important issue. However, there are few studies directly investigating perceived care needs of hospitalised older patients and the studies on care needs of older patients in the intensive care units are even fewer. The identification of care needs from older patients’ perspective will help develop qualified nursing practice.


A qualitative exploratory design.


Purposive sampling was performed to recruit 35 older patients from three hospitals in Taiwan. The interview transcripts were analysed by qualitative content analysis.


The results revealed that care needs of older patients in the intensive care units are multidimensional, including physical, informational and psychosocial dimensions. Older patients’ needs of the physical dimension included relieving pain and discomfort, starting oral intake as soon as possible and having continuous sleep. Informational needs included adequate explanations about their disease progression and prognosis and information on recovery-promoting activity. Psychosocial needs included caring behaviour of intensive care units staff, flexible visiting hours, increase in control ability and maintenance of good communication with intensive care units staff.


The findings can assist nurses in understanding the interventions necessary to meet care needs of critically ill older patients. The critically ill older adults need more than medical–technical care. They need more holistic care. The psychosocial and informational needs must be considered commensurate with the presenting physical needs.

Relevance to clinical practice.

Nurses have an important role in meeting intensive care units older patients’ care needs. Intensive care units nurses should conduct comprehensive assessment regarding older patients’ needs at the beginning and at various points in their intensive care units stay and match these needs with appropriate nursing interventions.

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