January 1, 2020
Dr. Vaishal Tolia, medical director of the Department of Emergency Medicine at UC San Diego Health provided an overview of the Gary and Mary West Emergency Care Unit (SECU) for seniors at the La Jolla Community Center’s recent Distinguished Speaker Series on Dec. 10. Although the 8,500 square-foot, 19-bed unit, opened its doors last year, there is still a need to get the word out about the first of its kind geriatric emergency department accredited by the American College of Emergency Physicians. The unit is only one of three similar units in the country and the only one in the state.
“There is a silver tsunami coming—every day 10,000 people turn 65, and the associated cost of these individuals on the healthcare system is not sustainable,” said Tolia. “We want to be able to evaluate seniors who could benefit from a variety of outpatient services and who may not necessarily need to be admitted. For higher-risk seniors, we are pleased to evaluate and treat them in this state-of-the-art geriatric unit.” He added that the medical team’s focus is to integrate various levels of assessments that address the patient’s social, family and functional/medical goals in the ER setting.
The SECU features interior design elements to address safety (e.g., non-slip floors, side chairs with high backs and sturdy arms); lighting (e.g., increased light levels and lighting that is adjusted according to circadian rhythm), tunable LED lights and use of daylight; acoustics (e.g., sound-absorbing walls, full-height walls to reduce noise levels to other patients); comfort (e.g., clear signage so patients can find their way easily, paint colors conducive to the aging eye); and other features, such as technology for the hearing impaired in certain exam rooms.
“We are very lucky that there is now an emergency room specifically geared to meet the needs of seniors in our community,” said Nancy Walters, the executive director of the La Jolla Community Center.
“Our focus on longevity and health is similar to the focus of the Senior Emergency Care Unit. We both are helping seniors stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible.”