As a hospital social worker, I assist many older adults each day. Much of my time is spent helping seniors who end up in our emergency room. In fact, I would say emergency help for the elderly consumes more than half of my time.
Many of my patients live alone. Their families are panicked to receive a call from me informing them their loved one is here for emergency elder care. Sometimes the injury is the result of a fall at home, and other times it is for something else.
I would like to create a simple flyer or brochure with tips to help families prevent emergency situations. Since you work with so many older adults, do you have any insight you can share?
Handling Emergency Situations with Seniors
What a great idea! Educating families about the dangers older adults face is a good way to prevent potential injuries. Research shows seniors make up many of the emergency room admissions in hospitals across the country. In fact, a quarter of older adults have visited the emergency room at some point, and over 19.6 million emergency room visits in the United States are adults aged 65 and over.
While many people assume sudden health conditions—such as a stroke or heart attack—are the reason a senior is sent to the hospital, the reality is quite different.
5 Leading Reasons Seniors Are Sent to the Emergency Room
Here is what the research shows:
- Falls: Falls remain the leading cause of non-fatal injuries among older adults. A senior is treated in the emergency room for a fall every 13 seconds. Many older adults live in homes that are not safe. A home safety audit can help identify potential issues.
- Car accidents: The next most common reason for emergency care in the elderly is a car accident. Older adults are more likely to cause harm to themselves than to others when they have a vehicle accident. Families need to consider whether a senior loved one is still safe behind the wheel of a car.
- Medication problems: Medication errors and adverse reactions to medications land millions of seniors in an emergency room each year. According to the New York Times, four medications account for nearly ⅔ of senior hospitalizations: blood thinners, insulin injections, aspirin, and oral diabetes medication. Encourage families to talk with the senior’s physician and pharmacist to stay on top of potential problems with medication.
- Heart disease: This one is probably no surprise. Of the 100 million emergency room visits that happen in the United States each year, almost 1.8 million are related to heart disease. Chest pain, shortness of breath, and exhaustion from a heart-related issue can all cause seniors to dial 911 every day. While these concerns cannot always be prevented, making sure a senior sticks to their health care plan can help lower the risk.
- Diabetes: Finally, older adults are at risk for a trip to the emergency room due to diabetes-related complications such as dehydration caused by elevated blood sugar levels. The senior might need the support of an in-home caregiver to maintain a healthy diet and hydration schedule.
Raising awareness about these issues can encourage families to take a proactive approach in keeping a senior loved one safe.
One final tip for families to consider is emergency home care. If the senior is treated and released from the emergency room, in-home care can be arranged for a few hours a day or around the clock until the older adult recovers. We recommend seniors and their family members interview home care agencies and create a home care emergency preparedness plan before a crisis occurs.
I hope this information helps you put together your family resource flyer!