Geriatric Case 4: End of Life Care

This case is the fourth in a six-part mini-series focusing on the management of geriatric patients in the ED. This series of cases was written by Drs. Rebecca Shaw, Nemat Alsaba, and Victoria Brazil.

Dr. Rebecca Shaw is an emergency physician currently working as a Medical Education Fellow within the Emergency department of the Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service in Queensland, Australia. Dr. Nemat Alsaba (@talk2nemat) is an Emergency physician with a special interest in Geriatric Emergency Medicine, medical education and simulation. She is trying her best to combine these interests to improve Geriatric patient care across all health sectors. She is also an Assistant professor in medical education and simulation at Bond university. Dr. Victoria Brazil is an emergency physician and medical educator. She is Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of Simulation at the Gold Coast Health Service, and at Bond University medical program. Victoria’s main interests are in connecting education with patient care – through healthcare simulation, technology enabled learning, faculty development activities, and talking at conferences. Victoria is an enthusiast in the social media and #FOAMed world (@SocraticEM), and she is co-producer of Simulcast (

Why it Matters

Elderly patients requiring resuscitation are frequently encountered in the ED. When patients are non-communicative, close family members are regularly required to act as substitute decision makers and represent their family member’s wishes. Engaging and communicating effectively with SDMs in end-of-life and goals-of-care discussions is necessary to provide the most appropriate care for the elderly patient. This case gives the opportunity to learn and enhance these skills.

Clinical Vignette

The charge nurse informs you “I just put a very unwell looking patient into resus. She’s from a nursing home facility and the paramedics think she is septic. She’s hypotensive and barely responsive. Honestly, she looks like she might be dying. Her granddaughter is on her way. I don’t think she has a known advanced care directive or code status.”

Case Summary

An 89-year-old patient is brought in to the ED by ambulance from their nursing home. Staff found her unresponsive and hypotensive at morning handover. She had been treated for UTI by her family physician over the last few days. Participants identify severe sepsis and realize that critical care interventions may be inappropriate. This should prompt a goals of care discussion including potential for initiating end-of-life care.

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ECG for the case found here:

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CXR for the case found here:

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