In a report released by the CDC in June of 2020, findings show that from 2014 – 2017 about 20% of emergency room visits were adults aged 60 and older. That comes out to 43 visits per 100 people in that age group.
VIPcare aims to help prevent you from experiencing some of the most common reasons for emergency room visits by keeping you in Better Health. In order to do that, you need to know what often leads to those hospital visits and why that one trip could turn into several.
Top 5 Most Common Reasons for ER Visits
If you’re an older adult or a caregiver to an older person, you need to know the symptoms of conditions that are the most common reasons for emergency room visits. Sometimes it’s things that first come to mind when you think about why people go to the ER, like a heart attack or accident, but other things might not seem as obvious.
Three million older adults are treated for fall injuries every year in the emergency room. And if you fall once, the CDC says that doubles your risk of experiencing a fall again.
Falling down can lead to injuries like broken bones, head trauma, or even just a fear of falling down again. Broken bones and head injuries can lead to some serious complications, increasing your chances of another hospital visit. As for the fear of falling again, that can cause people to become less active. Being less active will make you weaker, which is just going to make it more likely you’ll fall again at some point.
So, what puts you at risk for falling to begin with? Take a look at this list from the CDC:
- Lower body weakness
- Issues with balance
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Some medications
- Issues with foot pain or improper footwear
- Hazards in the home (broken/uneven/narrow stairs, throw rugs, clutter, etc…)
The key to lowering the chances of falling lies in addressing those issues.
Strengthening your lower body and core muscles can help you become more stable. Make sure your home is laid out in a way that’s as open as possible, free of clutter, and free of rugs or other things that you could slip on.
Always talk to your doctor if you’re unsure about how to work on your stability or if you’re taking any medications that could impact your vision or balance.
As we age, the number of medications we take can ramp up pretty quickly. It’s not hard to lose track of what you took, when you took it, and what you may have just forgotten to take.
Medication management is crucial to keeping you in good health and out of the hospital. Misusing your medication can lead to what’s called an adverse drug event (ADE). That’s when you have a negative reaction to a medicine or combination of medicines that result in harm.
Accidental misuse of your medicine can also lead to falls, which we covered in the previous section.
You can prevent an ADE by closely monitoring your medicine intake. You’ve got several options for medication tracking, including a simple worksheet, using a pill dispenser, or getting your medications in pre-dosed pill packs.
Also, be sure you’re speaking with your physician about all of the medications you’re taking before starting any new prescription regimen. If you don’t disclose all of the medicine you take regularly, the new medication being introduced could have an adverse reaction with something you’re already taking.
A stroke happens when blood flow to your brain is impeded. Things like blood clots or narrow arteries are what lead to this. When your brain doesn’t get enough blood flow, there isn’t enough oxygen being delivered, which starts to kill brain cells.
Time is of the essence when it comes to treating a stroke. The longer your brain goes without adequate oxygen, the more likely you are to lose brain cells. These are the symptoms to look out for:
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg (particularly if it affects only one side of the body)
- Abrupt confusion or inability to speak
- Sudden problems with vision
- Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If you notice any of these symptoms you need to call 911 immediately.
There are many factors that contribute to a stroke. Exercising regularly, eating healthy, not smoking, and controlling your blood pressure are all things you can do to lower your risk.
What you can’t control is your age. According to John’s Hopkins, for every decade of age after 55 your chances of having a stroke more than double. That makes leading a healthy and active lifestyle that much more important.
Chest pains and shortness of breath are two the most common reasons for emergency room visits. And those two things should have you high-tailing it to the hospital. Both are symptoms of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
Changes in the heart and blood vessels as we age leave older adults more prone to developing heart disease. Heart disease is largely caused by the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries. Remember how a stroke is caused by the brain not getting enough oxygen? Heart disease causes your heart to not get enough oxygen by way of reduced blood flow. When that level gets low enough, you have a heart attack.
The good news is there’s a lot you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease, and we might start sounding like a broken record here. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, controlling your blood pressure, and not smoking are the top prevention methods. Your oral health is linked to your heart health too, so make sure you’re keeping up with good oral hygiene practices.
The American Diabetes Association says a little more than a quarter of people aged 65 and older have some form of diabetes. In order to prevent any negative effects, those with diabetes have to make sure it’s being controlled at all times.
Having any form of diabetes can lead to health problems like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, and even nerve damage that can lead to amputation. Those with type 2 diabetes are also at a higher risk for cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the National Institute on aging.
ER Trips Could Be a Turning Point
Though the most common reasons for emergency room visits won’t always end up getting you admitted to the hospital, that doesn’t mean they should be taken lightly. Studies show even those trips that don’t leave you with an extended hospital stay could signal some larger problems.
Research shows that six months after visiting the ER, older adults were 14% more likely to develop some type of disability than someone of the same age with a similar bill of health but didn’t end up in the emergency room. A disability could be difficulty with any type of normal activity like bathing or getting dressed.
So why the swift decline? Well, further studies show that after an ER visit many older adults will experience mobility issues for up to a year after the visit. That means they aren’t getting up and about as much, which can severely impact quality of life or end up with a move to a nursing home. All of this to say it could be a trigger that leads to that adult just giving up.
Those things can lead to a drastic spiral of overall health, which is difficult to recover from. Having a good support system of family members or friends to follow up and make sure things are going ok after an ER trip can make all the difference.
Focusing on Better Health
The bottom line is staying healthy in the first place is the best plan of action. You can accomplish that goal is staying in touch with your doctor. Prevention should be the focus.
Developing a working relationship with your physician will allow them to better diagnose any issues you may be dealing with. It will also help them create the best treatment plan for you to get or stay healthy and out of the hospital.
Our physicians have plenty of time to set aside during your appointment. You won’t be rushed in and then out as quickly as possible. You’re encouraged to have a conversation, get to know each other. Our goal is to help you on the road to Better Health.