Aging column: Hospitals offer ERs just for seniors |

Aging column: Hospitals offer ERs just for seniors

Judson Haims

Recently, I sat in the emergency room with a patient at one of our local hospitals. As we sat and waited for a doctor, I could not help notice that most of the other people sitting waiting were seniors. I thought this was a bit odd. Where were the screaming babies, people with accidental sprains and broken bones, alcohol and drug disorders, and fevers?

Not being a person who is shy, I asked one of the in-take personnel about this. I was a bit taken back with the response. It appears that it is with great frequency that seniors visit the ER after the physician offices close.

With a little research, I found out that this is not unique to this hospital. It seems many hospitals encounter such a high rate of senior visits that senior specific emergency rooms are being developed with great frequency. In Denver, Exempla Lutheran hospital was the first to open a senior-specific ER. Now their sister hospitals, St. Joseph and Good Samaritan, have added dedicated ER space for senior patients.

If the time comes that you find yourself having to take a senior loved one to the ER, here are some tips on how to best make sure that they receive the best possible outcome.

1. Meet with your parent’s doctor and hospital staff. Get to know all the staff responsible for caring for your parent.

2. Find out every test and procedure to be done. Ask why specific tests have been ordered and what those results are.

3. Get a list of all your parent’s medications. Know what they are, what they are for, and the interaction with each other. Complications from medication errors are one of the most common reasons for seniors visiting the ER.

4. Research your parent’s condition. In today’s world with such easy access the Internet, finding out detailed information about specific medical conditions should be relatively simple.

5. Meet with the surgeon and anesthesiologist before any surgery. Make sure you know what the surgery is and how it is projected to go.

6. Watch for any warning signs that your parent’s condition may be changing.

Monitor your parent for any changes in attitude, complaints, etc., and bring those issues up with the medical staff immediately.

With so much of our nation’s population becoming seniors over the couple of decades, it is likely that many of us will be assisting our parents and loved ones with their medical, personal and financial issues. You don’t have to stumble through this process without education. Learning on the fly can be exhausting and cause great anxiety.

So when the call comes in that mom or dad needs some assistance medically or physically, what do you do? Where can you turn for information? What resources are available here in the valley to assist your parents or family members that need extra assistance?

Here in the Roaring Fork Valley, there are places to go to get information about all aspects of life related to aging or living:

Garfield County Department of Human Services

Judy Martin, Debby Sutherland and Barbara Peterson (970) 945-9191

Veterans Services

Joe Carpenter (970) 625-9484

Valley View Hospital

Librarian Gene Winkler (970) 384-6951

Northwest Colorado Council of Governments

Erin Fisher (970) 468-0295

Another great resource for people wanting to learn a bit more about assisting elders is the Caregiver Conference in Glenwood Springs on Tuesday, June 14. This year the conference will be held at the Glenwood Springs Community Center from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Should you be interested, please call (970) 945-9191 with questions and/or to RSVP.

Visits to emergency rooms are frequently avoidable. One of the best ways to mitigate a potential visit is to keep up with communication between a patient, their medical provider and pharmacist.

Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Garfield/Pitkin County. His contact information is,, 970-328-5526.

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