With the aging of the population, the number of older adults requiring healthcare is expected to boom over the next few decades. Unfortunately, the number of primary care providers and geriatrics specialists will not be able to keep up with the overwhelming increase in senior patients. As such, these patients will likely end up in the already crowded and overwhelming emergency room. The emergency room, however, is a remarkably unsuitable setting for senior patients.
The quality of today’s emergency room is based on its speed and efficiency. This need is understandable, as incoming patients dealing with a heart attack, stroke, or traumatic injury, for example, are racing against time. The issue of overcrowding, as well, has prompted a need for quick and orderly emergency rooms. The efficiency of emergency rooms can be seen in its physical nature – with large spaces that can be easily divided with a swing of a curtain, industrial floors that can be cleaned quickly and fluorescent lights.
Elderly patients, however, don’t always work at the quick and efficient pace of the emergency room, which can become overwhelming and uncomfortable. Many suffer from multiple chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, and some suffer cognitively with anything from mild dementia to Alzheimer’s disease.
The situation has been called to issue by several emergency medicine and geriatrics specialists hoping to improve healthcare for older adults. These researchers have recently published articles underlining the need to “geriatricize” hospitals and medical centres. Some of their advice includes: hiring providers trained in caring for elderly patients; routinely screening patients for dementia and other cognitive impairments; installing non-slip flooring and more sound-absorbing materials to decrease the risk of falls and lower noise levels.
While these kinds of changes are being implemented in some medical centres, many are less enthusiastic to make such big changes for the elderly. These researchers are committed to getting the senior population the healthcare they deserve.
Chen, Pauline. “Emergency Rooms Are No Place for the Elderly.” Emergency Rooms Are No Place for the Elderly. Well, 13 Mar. 2014.