Lanham, MD – There’s no denying it, Americans are getting older. Recent statistics show that more than 44 million people—14 percent of the population—are now geriatric or older than the age of 65. These older adults are using the emergency department (ED) twice as often as they did ten years ago.
Emergency departments are often a major point of entry for geriatric patients to receive medical care. We asked Dr. Puneet Chopra, chair and medical director of Observation and Emergency Services at Doctors Community Hospital, how the hospital’s new Geriatric Program makes healthcare easier and more effective for older adults.
Q: Who is considered a geriatric patient?
A: A geriatric patient is often defined as a person who experiences impaired body functions caused by the aging process. Moreover, they are usually characterized as being ages 65 or older.
Q: What unique challenges do some geriatric patients face?
A: A few of the challenges that some geriatric patients encounter include impaired vision or hearing. These impairments can make it difficult for them to communicate with care providers and fully understand discharge instructions. The fast-pace environments of many emergency departments can also be chaotic for some older patients, which can cause confusion and added stress.
Geriatric patients may experience barriers to their recovery when they leave the hospital such as access to support resources, home care services, prescribed medications and transportation to follow-up appointments. Additionally, the coordination of all aspects of follow-up care may be overwhelming.
Q: How does a geriatric program help keep older adults healthy?
A: Our Emergency Department’s specialized geriatric social worker helps patients navigate care at our hospital and their transitions home. This healthcare professional educates patients about available resources as well as serves as a liaison. The goal is to assist patients improve their overall health, prevent avoidable readmissions and reduce healthcare costs. One of the ways that we contribute to this goal is by calling many of our discharged Emergency Department patients who are ages 65 and older 24-48 hours after they’ve been discharged.
It is not only our staff, but also our facility, that caters to the needs of older adults. In our geriatric-friendly ED, we’ve added larger signs to improve their visibility and readability. We also supply tools like free magnifiers to make reading forms and other literature easier.
Q: How do geriatric social workers make a difference?
A: They help older adults navigate the hospital experience and transition home. Many of our Emergency Department patients ages 65 and older meet with a geriatric social worker who will:
- Assess their needs at the hospital
- Assist with the finding of primary care physicians or a medical home
- Help schedule follow-up appointments and transportation
- Assist with setting up and filling prescriptions
- Arrange home health services, safety assessments and other post-discharge care
- Provide information and counseling to family members
Q: Is there any other support services available for older patients?
A: Our newly opened Doctors Community Rehabilitation and Patient Care Center provides services to short-term-stay patients and long-term residents – people who need additional care prior to transitioning from hospital settings to their home environments. When combined with preventative health services like Doctors Community Hospital’s Joslin Diabetes Center, Comprehensive Orthopedic Services, Sleep Center and many others, people can receive high-quality healthcare services at one convenient location.
Doctors Community Hospital’s Emergency Department
We are available 24/7 to provide comprehensive and exceptional services for a wide range of conditions that require urgent or immediate care. Our specialty-trained emergency medicine physicians are experienced at evaluating, diagnosing and treating people of all ages. To learn more, visit us at DCHweb.org/emergency.
 http://www.acl.gov/Data_Outcomes/Index.aspx, October 15, 2015
2 https://innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/rahnfr/, February 5, 2015
Doctors Community Hospital is a premier medical and surgical hospital located in Lanham, Maryland. With a mission of being dedicated to passionately caring for the health of patients and the community, the hospital has provided high-quality as well as comprehensive health care to residents of Prince George's County and the region for 40 years.
A non-profit and 160+ bed facility, Doctors Community Hospital has a wide range of specialty programs and services.
- Bariatric and Weight Loss Center
- Cardiology Services and Outpatient Vascular Studies
- Center for Comprehensive Breast Care
- Center for Ear, Nose and Throat
- Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine
- Comprehensive Orthopedic Program
- Doctors Regional Cancer Center
- Emergency Services
- Infusion Center
- Joslin Diabetes Center
- Metropolitan Medical Specialists
- Rehabilitation Services
- Sleep Center
- Vascular Health Program
For more information, please visit DCHweb.org or call 301-DCH-4YOU (301-324-4968).