Appropriate emergency room care for seniors is a topic of critical concern. A recent New York Times article, Emergency Rooms Are No Place for the Elderly, discusses the challenges emergency care providers have balancing the extra care and attention older patients require with the need for speedy diagnosis and treatment.
Many seniors suffer from multiple, chronic medical conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. If these conditions are not treated regularly, serious and even life-threatening complications can occur. Unfortunately, too often, people put their health care on the the “back burner,” and otherwise treatable illnesses become too disabling to ignore. As a result, a hospital visit for emergency treatment may be necessary.
Even for younger, healthier people, emergency rooms can be crowded, noisy and disorienting. Seniors may become even more confused. Emergency health care providers are trained to quickly stabilize patients and discharge them. With senior emergency room patients, there is often no time for health care providers to obtain a detailed medical history. Their preexisting medical conditions may be ignored or overlooked. Seniors often get discharged from emergency rooms with treatment prescriptions that they may not be able to follow and which may interfere with their other medical conditions.
One solution that is gaining ground are emergency rooms created and especially designed for seniors. They are separate from the general emergency rooms, designed to be quieter, have non-skid floors and hand-rails along the wails to prevent slip and falls, and have volunteers who help to keep patients alert. Some of these helpful changes are reviewed in For the Elderly, Emergency Rooms of Their Own.
As the Times notes,
The number of older people seeking health care is expected to increase significantly over the next 40 years, doubling in the case of those older than 65, potentially tripling among those over 85.
Adequate and appropriate emergency care for seniors is a looming challenge. Hopefully, aging Baby Boomers will drive the healthcare industry to adopt the best practices of emergency geriatric care.
Katter Law Firm
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