May 22, 2018
Emergency departments throughout California are seeing more seniors than ever before, and this trend will continue as the state’s senior population is expected to nearly double to four million people by 2030. In light of this demographic shift, hospitals are becoming better equipped to take care of the unique needs of older adults, who often require more complex care than younger adults.
It’s why West Health and The SCAN Foundation launched We Stand With Seniors – an educational and awareness campaign bringing to light the specialized needs of our growing senior population so that policymakers and the healthcare community can make them a priority. This is especially critical now – during Older Americans Month – when issues impacting older adults are front and center.
As we all know, U.S. emergency departments provide urgent and emergency care to patients of all ages. They’re typically busy, noisy, brightly lit places that offer little or no privacy – a hectic atmosphere that many younger people can tolerate. But for an elderly patient experiencing a medical crisis, especially a patient with anxiety, dementia or other chronic conditions, that environment can compound an already serious, complex medical situation.
Fortunately, an initiative to change this one-size-fits-all approach to emergency care was recently launched by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). The Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation Program sets the standard for providing emergency care for people 65 and older, and requires hospital emergency departments to have both physicians and nurses on staff with specialized geriatric training, meet specific environmental criteria, such as ensuring easy patient access to water and mobility aids, and implement a geriatric quality improvement program.
In California, the Gary and Mary West Emergency Department at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla was honored to be the first emergency department in the state to receive Level 1 ACEP geriatric emergency department-accreditation by the ACEP—the highest and most comprehensive level of accreditation.
Seniors who arrive in the emergency department at Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla are treated by a team of specialists in geriatric medicine. At the center of this care unit are specialized geriatric nurses, physicians, pharmacists and social workers. As a team, they focus on senior-specific issues, such as fall risk, cognitive and memory problems and medication safety—all common complications when treating older adults. Additionally, the team tries to lower hospital admissions and re-admissions for seniors as well as working with patients and caretakers to ensure a smooth transition back home.
Over time, the goal is for all the approximately 5,000 emergency departments throughout the country to become geriatric-accredited and create new standards of care offering seniors better options and better outcomes.
Throughout 2018, We Stand With Seniors will continue to share examples of senior-focused innovations, such as geriatric emergency department accreditation, so every older adult across the nation has access to care tailored to their needs.