Public Safety Group Blog

Geriatric EMS: Treating an Aging Population

Posted by Jessica Carmichael on 6/1/15, 10:35 AM

Emerg_Firs_0024The elderly population is growing in the United States and is estimated to reach over 72 million people by 2030. As this population continues to grow, there will be an even greater need for emergency medical training to deal with this specific demographic.

The aging population currently accounts for 25% of emergency room visits and with these geriatric emergency patients there may be concerns that are not present in other age brackets, including:

  • Prescription Medications: Many older folks have what is known as ‘bag-o-medicine syndrome’ meaning that they keep all of their medications in a bag or shoebox. It is important that EMS responders take all the patient’s medication with them to the hospital. With worn labels or prescriptions from different doctors, bringing the patient’s medication will be the best way to determine any and all medication the patient may be taking.
  • Fragility Fractures: Fragility fractures are defined as fractures occurring from falls of standing height or less. These fractures occur in one half of women and one third of men over the age of fifty.  EMS responders need to be aware of the risks of fragility fractures and minimize the chance of any lifting-related injuries.
  • Assessing injury: Many individuals in the elderly population have chronic or reoccurring injuries and it may be difficult for EMS personnel to ascertain what symptoms are a result of the emergency and what symptoms are chronic.
  • Treating individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia: Assessing and treating individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia may be difficult, given that they may not be able to offer specifics regarding their emergency or medical history. Whenever possible, it is important for EMS responders to communicate with caregivers to obtain information on the patient and their history.

Emerg_Firs_0058Communication is crucial when assisting geriatric patients. If the patient uses hearing aids, dentures, or glasses it is important that those items be brought with the patient so that they can properly understand what is being communicated to them.  Also, letting the patient know what you are doing step by step can help them feel more comfortable, especially in unfamiliar surroundings.

Jones & Bartlett Learning is pleased to provide EMS training resources for geriatric patients. Learn more about Geriatric Education for Emergency Medical Services (GEMS), Second Edition today.

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Topics: Geriatric, EMS