Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Special Emergency Room for Seniors

Here is something new! I've heard of special Pediatric Emergency Departments (my hospital has just opened one) because children are not just "little adults".

But now there is an Emergency Department that treats only senior citizens over age 65. Located in Silver Spring, Maryland, the ED has staff trained in geriatrics and utilizes an approach to care that is structured around the needs of older people.

Each patient has a separate, uncluttered cubicle with a comfortable chair for a family member or visitor. The mattress is thicker than usual and is designed to prevent skin breakdown. Blanket warmers and pillows are there for comfort and the department is designed as a "soothing" atmosphere with special lighting and sound proofing. There are wooden handrails for safety and large face clocks. Each bed has a TV and overhead lighting controlled by a dimmer switch. (Great idea. Hate those glaring fluorescent lights).

Most importantly, the staff is trained in geriatrics and in communicating with patients who are hard of hearing or process information more slowly.

What I liked most about this new concept is that they involved the patients in planning. They really listened to what patients wanted..."keep me informed", "Keep me warm".

Nearly 3/4 of people over age 65 come to the Emergency Department for non-life threatening conditions like falls, chest pain, shortness of breath or other chronic conditions. It is these patients who are directed to the Senior ED.

In this time of high tech, expensive health care, it is amazing the impact that can be made with simple things. The center, which is separated from the regular ED, cost just $150,000 to renovate existing space and train the nursing staff.

They hope the Senior ED will run more efficiently than the general ER and patients can get in and out more quickly. They will track re-admissions and improved assessments to see if they are making a difference.


KM said...

Will they be able to recognize, diagnosis and treat strokes? When I took my father into the ER in the middle of the night they did not CT him and he was sent home only to have to call his primary doctor to have us go back in again and see another ER doctor who scanned him and admitted him and it turned out to be a stroke.

Margaret Polaneczky, MD (aka TBTAM) said...

What a great idea! Too bad they don't have one near my parents, who rush to the ED for things that others might not. I think the anxiety in the elderly lead them to see most minor medical rpoblems as emergencies - beacuse at their age, the odds are increasing that it's something serious.

Toni Brayer MD said...

Hey TBTAM: Glad you came out of the closet with your professional name.
Thanks for the visit.

KM: The Senior ED is attached to the regular ED and a stroke would be handled in the more acute section without triage to Senior ED.

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