The problem of misplacement of elderly patients was examined by survey of serial admissions to the geriatric and psychiatric departments serving an area of 200,000 population over the course of a year. Total misplacement was 9%, and 80% of misplaced patients went to the geriatric department where holiday admission (not offered by the psychiatric service) was a major factor predisposing to misplacement and where the patients were typically female and suffering from dementia. Misplacements to the psychiatric department represented 14.6% of admissions and were typically males with a short history of the present illness and more often had a past history of mental illness than similar patients correctly admitted to the geriatric department. We propose that a comprehensive geriatric service would be the best solution to the misplacement problem.

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