Growing Elderly Population a Focus in Highland ED
April 01, 2013
Timothy Lum, M.D.
Older adults make up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population: Each day, 10,000 people turn 65 years old. To meet the unique needs of patients in this age group, Highland Hospital has implemented new protocols and physical changes in its Wolk Emergency Department. These improvements complement the comprehensive geriatric services Highland provides to the community.
“We have to bring an increased level of vigilance when we treat older patients because they tend to be more medically complex and on multiple medications,” said Timothy Lum, M.D., Chief of Emergency Medicine. “Our providers and staff have become highly skilled at treating seniors, and they can now provide care in a setting that best suits the needs of older patients.”
Nearly 30 percent of Highland ED patients are 65 or older. The elderly friendly ED at Highland includes:
- Protocols to streamline care for older patients who present with common conditions, such as syncope (fainting), pneumonia and hip fractures. ED physicians worked closely with hospital geriatricians and orthopaedists to develop these treatment guidelines.
- Nurses with geriatric-specific training. They recognize and understand the different physical, emotional and psychological needs of older patients.
- Six newly designed rooms for older patients. These rooms have railings to help prevent patient falls and thicker mattresses that prevent skin breakdown or formation of ulcers. Clocks and calendars in rooms help patients stay oriented with their surroundings.
“For older patients, knowing the day and time is really important in preventing confusion or delirium,” said Dr. Lum, adding that delirium can delay recovery.
Delirium is a sudden onset of confusion that can last for days or weeks. Highland has recently focused on preventing delirium in hospitalized patients through its Hospital Elder Life Program (HELP), which utilizes volunteers to keep patients as mentally and physically active as their conditions allow.
The elderly friendly ED expands Highland’s comprehensive continuum of care for older patients. Highland has more academic geriatricians than any hospital in the region, and they serve as Medical Directors at many of the nursing homes and assisted-living facilities in the Rochester area. The Geriatric Fracture Center at Highland is world renowned for its approach to care: Geriatricians work with orthopaedic surgeons to co-manage older patients. Collaboration among physicians and staff also is essential in providing high quality care to patients on the Acute Care for Elders Unit and in the outpatient clinic, Geriatrics and Medicine Associates.