Friday, January 11, 2019
By Susan Murphy
Crowded and chaotic emergency rooms can be overwhelming and sometimes dangerous for seniors. A new emergency unit specially designed for patients 65 and older at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla is working to provide a higher level of care and a more dignified experience.
“We are now seeing almost 35 percent of our patients over the age of 65,” said Vaishal Tolia, M.D., director of the Gary and Mary West Senior Emergency Care Unit. “So what we’ve realized is this population, similar to the pediatric population has very specific needs.”
The 11 new patient rooms inside the accredited geriatric wing are equipped with sound-absorbing walls and ceilings and a variable lighting system that reflects the actual time of day.
“The beds are much more comfortable for prolonged stays if seniors need to be in bed for a prolonged period of time,” Tolia said.“With the goal of providing services up front and avoiding hospital admission for them.”
Senior patients are treated by a team of doctors and nurses with special training in geriatric medicine.
“So they look for things like fall risk, depression, cognitive impairment, review of medications,” Tolia said. “They work with physical therapy, pharmacy and all these other services that we bring to the emergency department.”
The goal of the senior unit is to lower hospital admissions and readmissions as the growing aging population is expected to increasingly strain medical resources.
In California, the number of people 65 years and older is expected to climb by 2.1 million by 2026, according to Census data. By 2030, the number of people 65 and older in San Diego County is expected to double.
Tolia said seniors often have multiple symptoms and require complex care.