San Diego

Emergency Rooms For the Elderly

UC San Diego Health in La Jolla opens first Senior Care Unit in California

It’s the first of its kind in California: An emergency room catered to caring for seniors, minus the bright lights, absent the commotion, and without the noise associated with busy emergency rooms.

The Gary and Mary West Senior Emergency Care Unit at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla opened its doors last week.

The unit will treat patients over 65 years old and was designed for those seniors who so often arrive at the emergency room in a confused and fragile state.

“Senior patients face common complications, such as being at a high risk for falls and cognitive and memory problems. All patients in the SECU are treated by a team with special training in geriatric medicine, including pharmacists to manage medications and social workers to ensure a smooth transition home upon discharge,” said Dr. Ted Chan, UCSD Health’s chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine.

The rooms feature calibrated lighting, acoustics intended to drown out loud, alarming noises, and color schemes to help prevent falls and improve mobility.

“Seniors have their own unique needs,” Dr, Vaishal Tolia tells NBC 7 Responds during a January 11 tour. “Our hope is that this becomes the beacon, an example of how the best senior care is delivered, both here in San Diego and also throughout the country.”

The eleven hospital rooms, attached to the main emergency room at UC San Diego Health in La Jolla, was paid for partly through an $11.8 million grant from Gary and Mary West.

Emergency rooms catered for senior care are likely to become more commonplace in coming years as the baby boomer demographic group continues to age. According to a government study, the number of seniors who were treated at emergency rooms increased from 16 million in 2001 to 21.3 million in 2015.

 “Seniors in San Diego now have an emergency department with processes and enhancements to provide a better and more dignified experience during an extremely vulnerable time,” said West Health’s CEO and President, Shelley Lyford. “Through our collaboration with UC San Diego Health, we are leading the way to wider adoption of geriatric emergency departments across the nation, ultimately improving outcomes and quality of life for seniors before, during and after a medical crisis.”

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