Aims and objectivesThis study examines the utilisation of healthcare resources by critically ill older patients over one year following an intensive care unit stay. BackgroundInformation on healthcare resource utilisation following intensive care unit treatment is essential during times of limited financial resources. DesignProspective longitudinal nonrandomised study. MethodsHealthcare resource utilisation by critically ill older patients (65years) was recorded during one year following treatment in a medical-surgical intensive care unit. Age-matched community-based participants served as comparison group. Data were collected at one-week following intensive care unit discharge/study recruitment and after 6 and 12months. Recorded were length of stay, (re)admission to hospital or intensive care unit, general practitioner and medical specialist visits, rehabilitation program participation, medication use, discharge destination, home health care service use and level of dependence for activities of daily living. ResultsOne hundred and forty-five critically ill older patients and 146 age-matched participants were recruited into the study. Overall, critically ill older patients utilised more healthcare resources. After 6 and 12months, they visited general practitioners six times more frequently, twice as many older patients took medications and only the intensive care unit group patients participated in rehabilitation programs (n=99, 76%). The older patients were less likely to be hospitalised, very few transferred to nursing homes (n=3, 2%), and only 7 (6%) continued to use home healthcare services 12months following the intensive care unit stay. ConclusionsCritically ill older patients utilise more healthcare resources following an intensive care unit stay, however, most are able to live at home with no or minimal assistance after one year. Relevance to clinical practiceAdequate healthcare resources, such as facilitated access to medical follow-up care, rehabilitation programs and home healthcare services, must be easily accessible for older patients following hospital discharge. Nurses need to be aware of the healthcare services available and advise patients accordingly.