Seniors go to hospital emergency departments (ED) more than other age groups and about one-quarter of all seniors end up in the emergency room (ER) at least once. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a survey found that adults over 65 made a total of 19.6 million ER visits in 2014.
Older adults go to an ED a variety of reasons, some of which are the most common. This is good information to have if you are a senior or care for an older adult.
1. Injury from a fall
As people age balance can become a problem, and falls are the most common cause of non-fatal injuries. In fact, seniors are treated in the emergency room following a fall every 13 minutes.
2. Auto accidents
Research in the Annals of Emergency Medicine finds that car crashes are the second most common form of trauma in seniors, and is a leading reason older adults end up in the ER.
3. Heart disease
Cardiovascular problems are commonly seen in the elderly, as it is an age-related issue. Symptoms include shortness of breath, exhaustion and severe chest pain.
Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. If treated quickly, long term damage can be avoided, so it’s imperative to get help right away if someone experiences sudden numbness and weakness in the leg, arm or face, confusion, trouble speaking, sudden vision issues, dizziness and loss of balance, and sudden severe headache.
5. Reactions to medication
Millions of seniors go to the emergency department each year due to adverse drug reactions. The most common drugs that are responsible are aspirin, blood thinners, insulin injections and oral diabetes drugs.
6. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., and sends many seniors to the hospital and emergency room. Symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath and fatigue can be indications of COPD conditions including bronchitis, emphysema and chronic airway obstruction.
Pneumonia is very common in older adults and is the fourth leading cause of death among seniors. The flu can progress into pneumonia, which has symptoms of coughing, shortness of breath and confusion.
8. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Dehydration is a common cause of UTI, and 31% of seniors suffer from chronic dehydration. It’s important to regularly drink water and liquids throughout the day. Symptoms include confusion, agitation, nausea and pain during urination.
9. Spinal disease and back pain
Another common condition that sends seniors to the ER is severe back pain, which can be caused by injury, arthritis or spinal disease.
If you are a senior, have a senior in your family or are a caregiver, paying attention to symptoms is essential. Sometimes if noticed early enough, symptoms can lead to health care services other than the emergency department. But many symptoms are sudden, so don’t hesitate to call 911 immediately.