There are two important conclusions to be drawn from this report — 1) The over-use of prescriptions drugs among older adults is epidemic; 2) A huge proportion of emergency rooms visits by older adults are preventable. McKnight’s Long Term Care News reports:
Adults aged 50 and older made more than 1.1 million trips to the emergency room for adverse drug interactions in 2008, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report. Seniors aged 65 and older comprised 61.5% of those visits. Among those seniors, 23.8 % of ER visits were associated with central nervous system drugs, such as pain relievers or anti-anxiety medication. Blood modifiers caused 22.6% of ER visits by seniors.
Roughly 90% of seniors take at least one prescription medication, while 76% take at least two, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. (McKnight’s, 9/7/10) According to the SAMHSA report, the findings “underscore the critical importance for continued surveillance of adverse reactions to maintain drug safety.” View the full report here.
The good news is there are a few hospitals that recognize there is a better way to provide emergency care to older adults. I had the privilege of helping create the nation’s first senior-specific emergency department at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring, Md. The senior ED featured a safer, state-of-the-art environment, geriatric-trained nurses and doctors and a social worker responsible for making sure discharged patients had the necessary support to safely leave the hospital. This precaution has greatly reduced the number of repeat visits by older adults at Holy Cross and other hospitals that have adopted the senior ED model.