Seniors in the Emergency Room

Posted by on Sep 9, 2010 in Health Emergencies |


Each year in Canada, thousands of seniors arrive at a hospital emergency department (ER) – either by ambulance or accompanied by adult children. Many will make more than one visit within the year. About 50% of patients coming to the ER are over 65 years of age.

The major reasons that older adults are taken to the ER include: falls; stroke; heart attack; infections; and delirium (acute confusion).

For your parent, it may be more a matter of “when” rather than “if” this happens, so being prepared – with the right information and expectations – is key. It can help you to ease your way through the crisis, know what questions to ask, and to take care of your parent and yourself. 

What to Expect

The ER is often busy and seemingly chaotic. The experience can be frightening and exhausting – for the senior and for family members. You may be there for several hours and even more than one day!  All this time, your parent may be lying on an uncomfortable gurney. The ER might be drafty, too cold, or too hot.  It is likely to be noisy 24-hours a day.

Staff is often operating at full speed to cope with the continued flow of patients, many with urgent or life-threatening illness or injury. Most will welcome your willingness to help a family member.

What You Can Do

Whatever caused the trip to the hospital is likely to interfere with your parent’s ability to speak and act for themselves. You can provide needed information, be a valuable advocate, provide comfort, and help prevent health complications such as delirium and deconditioning.

It’s important to look after yourself at this demanding time, even though it may seem appropriate to set your own needs aside. Although the health crisis might pass within a day or so, what follows might require your ongoing support for a long time.

For more details, consult the ElderWise e-guide Seniors in the ER

Vol. 5, No. 11, © ElderWise Publishing 2009.
You have permission to reprint this or any other ElderWise INFO article, provided you reproduce it in its entirety, acknowledge our copyright, and include the following statement: Originally published by ElderWise, Canada’s go-to place for “age-smart” planning. Visit us at and subscribe to our FREE e-newsletter.




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