Being rushed to a hospital emergency room can be pretty frightening at any age. But if you are elderly, perhaps hard of hearing, can’t see well, or are a bit unstable on your feet, the normal clamor of any hospital emergency room can be overwhelming.
On November 15 of last year, Hialeah Hospital opened a $250,000 customized unit within its acute care facility dedicated to the unique needs of older adults. “Florida has a large and growing geriatric population,” said Patrick Downes, Chief Operating Officer at Hialeah Hospital since 2011. “Communities provide separate pediatric emergency care facilities. We recognized it was time to address our community’s geriatric emergency care.”
Following an intensive study, Hialeah Hospital determined that a five-bed unit carved out from the existing ER could initially accommodate the day-to-day inflow of elderly people seeking emergency care. Hialeah Hospital has been serving the healthcare needs of communities from central to north Dade since 1951. And according to Downes, Hialeah’s ER treats more than 9,000 elderly patients yearly. The new Senior ER has been designed with an eye toward expansion as needed.
What makes the Senior ER special? It is distinctly separate from the hospital’s existing emergency room. Pleasing colors and large-print signage direct patients and family to the unit. Noticeably absent are the glaring bright lights and noise of any busy ER. “The esthetics of Hialeah’s Senior ER have been designed around the needs of the patient,” said Downes. “We want to make their time with us as comfortable as possible.”
Highlights of Hialeah’s Senior ER accommodations seem simple enough but are important to the elderly and can make a world of difference in how they deal with emergency care. Hialeah’s accommodations include:
. Large-faced clocks, calendars, boards and vital information throughout
. Large keyboards on telephones
. Non-skid floor surfaces to help prevent falls
. Landscape lighting in the rooms for comfort
. Sound resistant rooms
. Thicker mattresses for comfort
. Handrails
Prior to opening the Senior ER, Hialeah Hospital joined forces with Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE), a national program geared toward improving care for older hospitalized adults. “NICHE put our nurses and physicians through a six-week course to help them better identify geriatric issues,” added Downes. “Recognizing if a person has hearing or vision loss, or cannot communicate well can be critical to their proper treatment. An elderly person complaining of ulcers may, in fact, be having a heart attack. Ultimately, triage upon arrival at the hospital determines whether the patient will be seen in the Senior ER or placed in isolation or in our trauma unit.”
Hialeah’s Senior ER has a dedicated nurse responsible for the five-bed unit. “We also hired a patient liaison, an advocate for the elderly, who meets with every patient treated in the Senior ER,” said Downes. “The average length of stay in Hialeah’s ER is five hours. Our patient advocate ensures the patient will have adequate care once discharged.”
Patients treated in Hialeah’s new Senior ER have given high marks to the facility’s ambiance and the care they were given by the staff. In the words of one patient: “I recently visited the Senior ER at Hialeah Hospital for severe headaches and high blood pressure and had a very good experience in the new Senior ER,” said Gloria Pardon. “The doctors and nurses treated me very well and quickly. I also remember the rooms being well lit, clean and welcoming. If I need to visit the ER again, I will certainly be going to the Senior ER at Hialeah Hospital.”
“We are very happy with the community’s reception to our Senior ER,” said Downes. “Hialeah Hospital has been proactive in providing excellent care for the community overall. Our Senior ER recognizes we have a growing elderly population that requires specialized focus on their healthcare needs. And as a member of the Tenet Healthcare family, we are proud to offer their first Senior ER.”
Baseball fans will soon hear more about Hialeah’s Senior ER through a marketing promotion featuring Major League Player Tony “Big Dog” Perez. In the meantime, you can learn more about the Senior ER program by visiting