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ER visits increase disability risk for seniors, says study

An elderly individual’s emergency room visit for an injury or illness could signal serious health problems, according to recent research. Adults aged 65 and older who make a trip to the ER are at a 14 percent higher risk of experiencing disability and physical decline up to six months after discharge than seniors who do not visit the ER.

The study said that seniors who were admitted to the ER were unable to independently carry out everyday tasks such as bathing, dressing, managing finances or shopping within six months of returning home. Seniors who were already having difficulty with daily activities prior to their ER visit are especially vulnerable during this period.

Experts believe there are several reasons that a trip to the ER can result in negative consequences for the elderly. Individuals who previously had no difficulty in coping with their health may suddenly feel they can no longer handle their injuries or the worsening of a chronic ailment like diabetes. For example, elderly individuals who fall and hurt themselves may limit their movement due to the fear of falling again. They may also require more in-home help.

Dr. Thomas Gill, study coauthor and Yale University professor of medicine, said trips to the ER can result in “a fairly vulnerable period of time for older persons.” He suggested considering “new initiatives to address patients’ care needs and challenges after such visits.”

Researchers said family members and caregivers should pay extra attention to the elderly individual in the first few days after their ER visit. They suggested checking in frequently on loved ones, following through with medical professionals and educating oneself about the tests and treatments that were administered in the ER. Taking such steps can help minimize the health challenges an elderly loved one may face in the future.

Key differences between nursing homes and assisted living facilities

Choosing the right type of senior care for yourself or an aging loved one can be a difficult task due to the many options available. Among the best-known types of residential senior care are assisted living centers and nursing homes. Understanding the basic differences between them and whether they fulfill one’s requirements can help the decision-making process.

An assisted living facility allows one to live rather independently and offers special housing and day-to-day support services for its residents. Onsite staff members provide assistance with bathing, grooming, housekeeping and other daily living. Residents are given meals and have the option to participate in scheduled activities. Very basic health care, such as medication management, may also be offered.

A nursing home is also known as a skilled nursing facility. Seniors in nursing homes receive assistance with day-to-day activities. They are also monitored and cared for by around-the-clock nursing staff. Nursing home residents often have disabilities or chronic medical conditions that require full-time medical care.

Family members dealing with minor age-related issues and who wish to maintain their independence might find that an assisted living community is a good fit. However, elderly individuals who require daily medical support may prefer a nursing home.

Of course, there are many other issues to think about when choosing a living situation for an elderly loved one. Besides varying levels of medical services offered to residents, there are also differences in how seniors and families can pay for their care and the cost of living in such facilities. To learn more about long-term care planning, contact the knowledgeable attorneys at Gilfix & La Poll Associates.