Because the needs of the senior population are different from the needs of younger patients, hospitals should make changes to create an emergency department geared to the needs of seniors, says William Thomas, MD, an elder care expert who is working with Livonia, MI-based Trinity Health on geriatric issues and development of the senior emergency departments.
The physical environment should be altered to accommodate the physical needs of older people, Thomas adds. The staff in the emergency department have to receive specific training in the care of elders, and the way care is provided should be reorganized to include an emphasis on pharmaceutical issues such as medical reconciliation and social issues that could interfere with the patients’ living independently in the community. The organization’s culture also must change to ensure that the needs of older people are a consistent part of the care process, he adds.
Senior emergency departments should have no-glare lighting with dimmer switches in the rooms, non-slip, non-glare floors, hand rails, and grab-bars throughout the entire area to accommodate the needs of seniors, Thomas adds. Pressure-reducing mattresses, blanket warmers, and clocks, calendars, and telephones with large buttons all create a senior-friendly environment.
Because of noise buffers, the senior emergency department is much quieter than the main emergency department, says Sue Penoza, RN, MA, strategic planning director for Trinity Health. Materials the staff give the patients are in large print, and reading glasses and hearing devices are available for people who need them.
“When we began developing our senior emergency departments, we reviewed the skills and knowledge the staff needs to take care of the elder population and developed recommendations for the education of nurses and physicians, as well as for other caregivers such as patient care assistants,” Penoza says. The health system offered educational sessions around ageism, created videos, and offered workshops on working with the senior population.
The hospitals included the education in the hiring and orientation process. “Our senior emergency departments focus on delivering evidence-based, patient-centered care to elders who are relying on us to help them achieve the best possible outcomes,” Penoza says.
Source: Hospital Case Management
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David Pierce says
Hello everybody, I am currently an AGNG 200 student at the Erickson School of Aging at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and have an interest in this topic. I agree with several of the arguments of making the emergency department at hospitals more senior-citizen-friendly such as by improving lighting, making word documents and clocks larger and easier to read, and actively preventing any slips and falls. As the elderly person who is visiting the ED may be experiencing a significant amount of distress, the unit should be made as assisting as possible in order to help the patient better adjust to their treatment environment. It can enhance the quality of treatment a patient receives if they are in a comfortable environment, and it can also prevent new injuries by establishing a safer and more accommodating setting.
This issue relates to our studies of aging in many ways. We are interested in the costs of health care as the general population experiences an increase in life span as a whole; making the ED more elderly-friendly can be costly in some aspects, but as a whole, the benefits of the improvements will outweigh the costs and it can improve treatment and encourage the elderly to come hospitals if they have safer, more accommodating experiences beforehand. This personally relates to me as I have worked in the ED as a medical scribe and have witnessed, first-hand, how senior citizens vary on their reactions to being admitted to the ED when it may not be as accommodating for an older person.
This is so important! My mom was traumatized by being the only woman in a 4 person hospital room after she left the surgery ward and was put in with other recovering elders. She felt completely vulnerable. Gender segregation is even more important when one is ill. I know this is just one part of creating a good environment for our elders in general medical units in hospitals, but it’s an important part of well-being to feel a degree of comfort and safety.