Exercise and diet can help seniors stay healthy long into their golden years, but it's not unusual for older adults to pay a visit to an emergency room every now and again. Seniors are more susceptible to some illnesses, and falling becomes more common after retirement age, which can lead to a trip to the hospital. Older adults who reside in assisted living communities can rely on staff to help them get to a hospital if necessary, but sadly, many emergency rooms may be ill-equipped to address seniors' specific needs, according to a study recently published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.
What seniors need
Researchers from the University of Waterloo looked at a number of patients over age 75 who had entered emergency departments in several different countries. They found that older adults "have distinct and often complex needs," but that many times, the chaotic environments of emergency rooms aren't able to address the issues unique to seniors.
Emergency rooms are typically designed to address severe illnesses and injuries, but may not have services in place to help with geriatric assessment and intervention. This increases the chances of misdiagnosis or poor care, because there may be no geriatric specialists on hand. For example, older adults who come into an emergency room showing signs of delirium may be accidentally diagnosed with dementia, because there is no one there who has been trained to recognize the differences between these two cognitive issues.
According to the researchers, 75 percent of seniors arriving at ERs were dependent on others to help them achieve their daily tasks, had a cognitive problem or had fallen within the last three months. These trends were consistent no matter what country the seniors lived in.
What can be done?
One way to address the issues found in the study is to add geriatric services and specialists to the ER environment, study authors say.
"The absence of life-threatening injuries doesn't mean seniors and their families don't have serious health needs," said Professor John Hirdes, who helped lead the study. "There is often the sense that seniors are wasting resources in emergency departments, which is simply untrue. Refining approaches to managing older patients would allow hospitals to meet the needs of the aging population while still providing traditional services to high-risk patients."
In the meantime, seniors can ask a staff member at their retirement community to attend an ER visit with them if they are unable to bring a family caregiver along.
The holidays are a great opportunity for families to connect and spend quality time together. They can also bring to light any cognitive or physical health changes in senior loved ones. If it’s time for a senior to move to a senior living community, taking the time to involve your loved one in the process and understanding their feelings can make all the difference in a smooth transition.
Alzheimer's disease is shaping up to be the biggest health issue facing the senior community. More than 5 million Americans have the condition, and as the aging population grows in the coming years, experts estimate that figure could triple. However, senior health experts are taking action. Most recently, the Department of Health and Human Services granted nearly $1 million to the Alzheimer's Association so it can operate a 24-hour call center for both those living with Alzheimer's and their caregivers.
Sunrise Life Enrichment Managers are the core of our personalized memory care for seniors in all Sunrise communities and Reminiscence Neighborhoods. LEMs are expertly trained to serve seniors in a wide variety of capacities, from assisting with day-to-day needs to providing specialized care for residents with memory loss. Meet a few of our Sunrise LEMs and learn how they dedicate each day to improving and enriching senior living.
Alzheimer's disease is an illness that changes over time. The early stages may be almost identical to normal age-related memory loss, while later stages often require the full-time assistance of a professional or family caregiver. A new report from the Alzheimer's Society, which is based in the U.K., finds that many people who are living with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia often feel trapped in their own homes. Researchers say the report underscores the necessity of developing programs and resources to help make communities welcoming and comfortable for individuals who have been diagnosed with dementia.