It’s every adult child’s greatest nightmare: You receive a call at work or in the middle of the night to tell you your parent has been admitted to the emergency room. Sometimes, it’s because they became dehydrated from an illness or suffered a stroke. At other times, they may have slipped on icy steps or fallen in the home.
The reason doesn’t matter: Each time it happens, your heart stops.
The first visit is unlikely to be the last.
Centers for Disease Control statistics show that a total of 19.6 million emergency department (ED) visits in the United States were made by persons aged 65 and over during fiscal year 2009-2010. The visit rate for this age group was 511 per 1,000 persons. These same statistics indicate your parents are more likely to be admitted to the emergency room the older they get.
Only 29% of visits by people 65 and older were related to injury. The percentage among those age 85 and older is even higher.
Studies show that older adults are often sicker, are more likely to have a longer stay in the emergency department, and are more likely to be hospitalized after their visit than younger patients. The most common reasons for older adults to visit the emergency department include ischemic heart disease, congestive heart failure, syncope, cardiac dysrhythmias, acute cerebrovascular accidents, pneumonia, abdominal disorders, urinary tract infections, and fall-related injuries.
Try these 10 methods to prevent your parent from falling prey to some of the most common reasons older adults must visit the ER.
Diet can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, prevent illness, and strengthen bones to prevent serious injuries from falls. Diet also plays a factor in preventing a decline in thinking skills and staving off dementia. Older adults are more likely to stick to a familiar diet that is not balanced. Many seniors also lose their appetite and don’t eat enough.
Exercise can help people maintain a healthy weight, lower blood pressure and stress, and strengthen muscles to prevent falls. Exercise also helps prevent back and neck pain, one of the leading causes of admission to the ER.
One study indicated that approximately 15% of emergency department admissions among older adults was caused by failure to take medication properly. Make sure your parent takes their medication faithfully and on time.
Hand-washing can help prevent the spread of infection and disease. Many caregivers report that their parents are either incontinent or don’t wash properly after elimination. Monitoring hand-washing is an important technique to prevent disease.
Not only are seniors more likely to become dehydrated, many don’t drink enough to maintain hydration. Keep water around constantly, but if they absolutely hate water, they can increase their fluid intake with diluted juices (full-strength may cause diarrhea), tea, and flavored waters. Coffee has health benefits but may increase dehydration.
Coming down with influenza, pneumonia or shingles can be dangerous for a senior adult. Make sure they have the usual vaccinations for common illnesses, as well as tetanus.
Proper kitchen hygiene includes washing fruits and vegetables, throwing away outdated food, and general kitchen cleanliness. It can prevent many food-borne illnesses from E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.
Sunscreen, wearing proper clothing, hydration, taking breaks to cool off, and staying out of the sun when it’s fiercest are important techniques to prevent skin cancer and heat stroke. If you live in the country, beware of ticks, spiders, and, in some areas, poisonous snakes.
Regular checkups with their family doctor will catch disease symptoms before they necessitate a trip to the ER.
If your parent feels ill and has not begun to feel better within 24 to 48 hours (depending upon the severity of the illness), take them to their primary care physician. A quick trip now may spare them an emergency trip to the hospital later.
At The Apartment Community of Our Lady of the Snows, we have a Wellness Resource Center, as well as a nurse on hand 24 hours a day, because we are a continuing care retirement community. The pillars of our community are physical, intellectual, social, and spiritual wellness, supported by fitness classes, lectures, entertainment, social activities, outings, learning opportunities and more. Discover more about how The Apartment Community promotes your parent’s health and happiness by calling 800-533-6279 or contacting us online.