• vulnerability;
  • frailty;
  • Vulnerable Elders Survey;
  • health service use

OBJECTIVES: The Vulnerable Elders Survey (VES), a recently developed screening tool for at-risk older people in the community, has been validated in the United States. This study evaluated its profile in older Irish people. It assessed whether those categorized as vulnerable according to the VES were likely to use health services more frequently than others.

DESIGN: Nationally representative cross-sectional interviews.

SETTING: Private homes in the community.

PARTICIPANTS: Randomly selected older people (aged ≥65) (N=2,033; 68% response).

MEASUREMENTS: Interviews included the 13-item VES and questions on health service use.

RESULTS: The proportion scoring as vulnerable was identical to the U.S. sample (32.1% vs 32.3%). At the community healthcare level, participants categorized as vulnerable visited their primary care physician more frequently (mean visits 6.7 vs 4.0, P<.001), had more home-based public health nurse visits (29% vs 5%, P<.001), and were more likely to have had preventive influenza vaccinations (81% vs 72%, P<.001) in the previous year. More-vulnerable older adults did not differ on assessment of blood pressure (97% vs 96%), cholesterol (82% vs 85%), or receipt of smoking advice (66% vs 52%). Vulnerable participants were more likely to have used emergency department (17% vs 8%, P<.05), inpatient (21% vs 12%, P<.05), and outpatient (28% vs 21%, P<.05) hospital services. Fourteen percent of those categorized as vulnerable had zero or one visit to their family physician in the previous year.

CONCLUSION: This study provides further evidence, from a different healthcare system, of the potential of the VES to differentiate more-vulnerable older people. Prospective studies are needed to assess use of the VES as a clinical decision aid for community professionals such as family physicians and public health nurses.