In this study, researchers found Six months after visiting the ER, seniors were 14 percent more likely to have acquired a disability, an inability to independently bathe, dress, climb down a flight of stairs, shop, manage finances, for instance than older adults of the same age, with a similar illness and does not end up with ER. These older adults weren't admitted to the hospital from the ER; they returned home after their visits, as do about two-thirds of seniors who go to ERs, nationally. This study got published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Twice a day, the 86-year-old man went for long walks and visited with neighbours along the way. Then, one afternoon he fell while mowing his lawn. In the emergency room, doctors diagnosed a break in his upper arm and put him in a sling. In response to concerns about the care older adults are receiving, the field of emergency medicine has endorsed guidelines designed to make ERs more senior-friendly. With the rapid expansion of the aging population, which accounts for more than 20 million ER visits each year.

The guidelines call for educating medical staff in the principles and assessing seniors to determine their degree of risk; screening older adults deemed at risk for cognitive concerns, falls and functional limitations; performing a comprehensive medication review; making referrals to community resources such as Meals on Wheels; and supplying an easily understood discharge plan.

Dr. Kevin Biese, chair of the board of governors for ACEP's geriatric ER accreditation initiative, offers these approvals:

  • Escape the crowd. "Ask for a room, instead of letting your loved one stay out in the hallway — a horrible place for seniors at risk of delirium. Tell staff, who may have put Mom in the hallway because she's a fall risk and they want to keep an eye on her.
  • Supply a full list of medications. "And ask the doctor or nurse to make sure that your list is the same as what's in computer. If not, have them update the computer list. Don't leave without knowing which medications have been stopped or changed, if any, and why."
  • Focus on comfort. "Bring eyeglasses and any hearing-assist devices that can help keep your loved one oriented. If you think Mom is in pain, encourage her pain to be treated."
  • Keep tabs on your loved one. Finally, they need to see the few days after a visit to the ER as a time of critical importance, when increased vigilance is required. Arrange for some extra help if you can't be around, even if only for a few days.