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Seniors Avoid ER at Start of Month
Date:4/4/2008

Researcher suggests they might want to avoid theft of Social Security checks

FRIDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- A new study finds that senior citizens in Baltimore seem to avoid visiting the emergency room around the beginning of each month, possibly because they want to stay home and make sure no one steals their Social Security checks.

The findings could help doctors get a better handle on fluctuations in when the elderly seek medical care, said study author Dr. David Jerrard, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland. "We feel that this is a real phenomenon, a real trend."

Jerrard said he's noticed for some time that older patients were less likely to show up around the beginning of the month.

"Our patient load would drop off precipitously," he said. "Some of the patients would tell us that they'd made a point of staying home when their checks were sent out. A lot of them were fearful that the checks would be stolen."

In the new study, Jerrard and colleagues looked at two years of statistics about visits by people older than 62 to the emergency department of the Veterans Administration hospital in Baltimore.

They examined the number of patients who visited the center on 96 dates between December 2003 and November 2005. They didn't look at Sundays and holidays, when mail is not delivered.

The findings were expected to be released April 4 at the International Conference on Emergency Medicine in San Francisco.

The researchers found that an average of 30 patients visited the ER during dates in the middle of the month, compared to just 23 patients for each of the two days at the beginning of the month, when Social Security checks typically arrive.

By contrast, there was hardly any change in the number of patients under the age of 62 visiting the ER on the other days of the month.

Jerrard and colleagues had previously reporte
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