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Geriatric Health: Surviving An ER Visit

Going to the ER is a traumatic experience for anyone, and can be a stressful visit with all the activity happening around you. It may be hard to stay calm and feel comfortable in your surroundings, especially if you are suffering from a critical injury or illness.

For geriatric patients especially, the surroundings and general atmosphere of most emergency rooms are anything but calm and reassuring. Regardless of the illness or injury prompting an emergency room visit for an elderly patient, they are bombarded by loud, overly bright, frenzied, and sometimes confusing environment. This can prod elderly patients towards a further decline in cognitive function, expose them to infections and hospital acquired diseases, result in eventual transfer to nursing facilities instead of their own homes, and adversely affect their already frail health.

Don’t let the emergency room stress you out and try to use strategies that help you stay calm and in control. If you’re frustrated, ask for clarification and never be afraid to ask a question or have information repeated.

The following factors play into frustration at the emergency room, but recognizing these components can help you better approach a possible future emergency room visit:

  • Be patient in finding a diagnosis. Older adults often are more complex patients for a number of reasons: it may be difficult for clinicians to distinguish which symptoms are the chief complaint and most important, as there may be several. In addition, there may be multiple pathologies and illnesses complicated by the normal aging process, where the usual signs and symptoms may not be displayed. There may also be difficulty in gauging the patient’s baseline status, which is needed to assist in diagnosis and treatment.
  •  Medicine plays an important factor. On any given day, the average senior takes four or five prescription drugs and two over-the-counter medications. All medications need to be considered and accounted for, as they can cause adverse reactions to various treatments.
  • Be specific and clear when describing you symptoms. It has been estimated that 40 percent of all elderly emergency room patients have some form of cognitive impairment. This makes them particularly vulnerable, as they may be unable to clearly describe their problems to the ED staff, make decisions, or function independently.
  • Bring someone with you for support. Find support from friends or family members. There needs to be an accurate assessment of the patient’s support system in any discussion of discharge planning. This includes deciding if there are family members who can assist the patient in carrying out the medical plan as prescribed when they leave the ED.
  • It may not just be physical symptoms. Social and personal concerns of the elderly patient need to be addressed in any emergency encounters. This can disguise underlying health problems and interfere with completion of treatment plans and attendance at scheduled appointments.

The challenge of dealing with elderly emergency room patients is only growing greater. Across the United States, there has been a substantial increase in demand for emergency medical services among the elderly. An estimated 25 percent of emergency room visits are made today by Medicare recipients (even though they represent just 12 percent of the general population).

Stay patient and confident so that your emergency room visit is a positive experience that helps you feel better and healthier.

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Angels Senior Home Solutions is a based-in-faith company that provides in-home healthcare and personal care services for seniors. Learn more at our website here.

 

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