Breathing difficulty is a common occurrence in older adults and is usually a symptom of an underlying health condition, most often cardiorespiratory disease.3,4

Patients presenting with acute breathing problems often experience the most distressing form of breathlessness known as “air hunger”.5 This is the sensation of needing to take in more air. Air hunger is an especially unpleasant symptom that can induce anxiety, panic, and fear.

In fact, breathing problems are one of the most common reasons for an ambulance call out.6 Older adults with breathing problems constitute a considerable proportion of emergency department case load and have a high admission rate and significant mortality.7 Exacerbations or worsening of pre-existing chronic disease account for a sizeable proportion of cases.

Many seniors presenting to emergency departments with breathing difficulties have time-sensitive diagnoses,8 emphasising the need for prompt medical attention and early diagnosis.

Delaying emergency intervention for older adults experiencing an incapacitating medical event while living at home, such as breathing difficulty or chest pain, can lead to a fatal outcome and also risks the ability of survivors to continue to live independently.9

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