Emergency Care for the Elderly (ECE), located at Research Medical Center’s emergency room, offers four specially designed rooms in the newly opened unit. Part of Research Medical Center’s progressive Center for Healthy Aging, ECE is equipped with stacks of warm blankets, signage with oversized lettering, adjustable lighting, grip flooring and thicker mattresses to help wound prevention. The audio-amplified rooms are painted in a soft and soothing color and are available to senior adult patients in need of immediate medical attention.
Though the rooms are steps away from one of Kansas City’s busiest emergency departments, the environment surrounding Emergency Care for the Elderly is hushed, physicians and nurses quietly working with patients.
Jacque Euritt, RN, MSN, director of the emergency department at Research Medical Center, says that since Emergency Care for the Elderly opened in early May, demand has been brisk. “We knew the Greater Kansas City metropolitan area could benefit from emergency medical care geared specifically to older adults,” says Euritt. “It’s a trend throughout the country to have facilities address the unique medical care needs of geriatric patients. Research Medical Center has one of the most comprehensive programs for aging adults in the city, and Emergency Care for the Elderly is a component of that focus.”
Indeed the atmosphere in ECE is less frenzied than the neighboring emergency department. Nurses and physicians caring for each patient, often diagnose and treat multiple issues and frequently uncover hidden problems.
“The aging process naturally makes an older adult susceptible to more than what brought them into the emergency room,” says Joseph Keary, RN, emergency clinical coordinator for the ECE. “We are staffed by geriatric-trained nurses and physicians who specialize in the care of older adults and understand the importance of digging deeper to find, for instance, signs of dementia, depression or other red flags that may affect their overall health.”
Changes are occurring across the country in the typical hospital emergency department, where seniors make 17 million visits annually. To accommodate the significant population of baby boomers poised to enter their golden years—it’s predicted that by the year 2030 one in five Americans will be age 65 or older—hospitals like Research Medical Center are ahead of the curve in addressing those needs.
Kevin J. Hicks, chief executive officer at Research Medical Center, says that Emergency Care for the Elderly aligns with the hospital’s commitment to the community. “This emergency unit dedicated to older adults is a valuable resource to the community,” he says. “It allows our physicians and nurses to deliver exceptional and compassionate patient care to the elderly and those who care for them.”
In addition to immediate care, patients visiting ECE receive information on programs to help them with their needs through the Acute Care for the Elderly Inpatient Unit (ACE), including Meals on Wheels and church and community organizations. Caregivers receive opportunities for education on dealing with an aging family member. In addition to ECE and the ACE Unit, the Center for Healthy Aging at Research Medical Center includes: Memory Loss Clinic, the Geriatric Assessment Clinic and the Adult Multi- Specialty Care Clinic on Research’s Brookside Campus.
“We have senior adults covered from every healthcare angle,” says Hicks. “That’s a good thing for older patients and gives their caregivers peace-of-mind.”