Common Reasons Older Adults End Up in the Emergency Room

Sunrise Senior Living  |  October 9, 2019
Common Reasons Older Adults End Up in the Emergency Room
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Emergencies happen from time to time but are more common as we age. In fact, older adults visit hospital emergency rooms at higher rates than most other age groups. Research shows 16 percent of adults age 65 and older are patients in a hospital emergency room (ER) each year.

It’s easy to assume emergency medical conditions like heart attacks and strokes are the primary reasons seniors are sent to a hospital ER. The reality is older adults visit the emergency room for other reasons.

5 Leading Reasons Older Adults Visit the Emergency Room

1.    Fall-related injuries

Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries among older adults. According to the National Council on Aging, a senior is treated in the emergency room every 13 seconds for injuries related to a fall. Older adults experience a fall for many reasons, including: torn carpets, unsteady stairs, poor nutrition, vision loss, and balance problems.

2.     Injuries sustained in a car accident

People often believe older adults cause car crashes that harm other drivers. The truth is, younger drivers cause more accidents than seniors. The difference is older drivers are more likely to be injured during an accident. The Annals of Emergency Medicine says car accidents are the second leading cause of trauma among seniors.

3.    Medication mistakes and side effects

Problems with medications send millions of older adults to a hospital emergency room each year. Sometimes it is a dosage mistake—skipping a dose or taking too much—and other times it may be a side effect or adverse reaction.

Some prescription medications are more likely to cause problems than others. According to The New York Times, four medications are responsible for two-thirds of emergency room visits among seniors. They are blood thinners, insulin injections, aspirin, and oral diabetes drugs.

4.    Heart-related emergencies

Heart-related emergencies result in 1.8 million ER visits by seniors every year. Older adults often seek emergency care for symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and exhaustion. It’s important to note that cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide.

5.     Complications from diabetes

Older adults who have diabetes are at higher risk for hospitalization than peers who don’t have the condition. Complications like stroke, heart attack, dehydration, unstable blood sugar, wounds, and ulcers are a few leading reasons.

As our population continues to gray, the number of seniors in emergency rooms climbs. This has contributed to a rising trend of ERs designed to be senior-friendly. These specialty emergency rooms feature softer lighting, nonskid flooring, bedside toilets, thicker mattresses, and team members specifically trained in geriatric care.

Assisted Living May Reduce ER Visits

If an older adult in your life is making repeated trips to the hospital emergency room, the support of an assisted living community might help. With benefits ranging from medication management and well-balanced meals to an environment designed with seniors in mind, older adults who move to an assisted living community often see an improvement in their quality of life. Call us at 888-434-4648 to learn more!


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