Hospitals Are Senior-Proofing Their ERs

Is your hospital’s ERsenior proof?” Odds are, in the next few years it will be. That’s because more senior citizens than ever are flooding ERs, but they’re not going there to get treated for major injuries, like a broken arm. Instead, they have routine ailments, like foot cramps, and don’t want to wait months for an appointment with their doctor. Experts say those unnecessary visits are draining limited ER resources, like staff time. The problem will only get bigger as Baby Boomers approach their mid-60s and experience more health issues.

So, hospitals are taking action. They’re creating “senior ERs.” They’re 100% senior-friendly, and have everything from nonskid floors to prevent falls, to pocket talkers for nurses - small amplifiers that hook to headphones. That way, nurses don’t have to yell at patients to find out how they’re doing. Experts say the biggest benefit of senior ERs is that they’re like detective agencies, because senior ER nurses and doctors are specially trained to treat the problem that brought the senior to the hospital in the first place, and to uncover any “invisible hazards.” In other words, problems that wouldn’t be discovered during a regular ER visit, like depression, dementia, or delirium. Experts say catching and curing invisible hazards is leading to a drop in the number of seniors who make return visits.

That’s exactly what happened to one senior we read about. She’s a diabetic and was treated for low blood sugar in a regular ER. A few weeks later, she came back and was re-directed to a newly opened senior ER. The doctors there discovered that she had dementia, which was making her mess up her insulin doses, and repeatedly triggering her low blood sugar episodes.

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