ER Visits for Older Americans May Signal Decline

An elder Mom or Dad may not always reveal health or aging issues with their adult children. An ER visit often becomes the first sign and creates crisis management if no advance plan for Long-Term Care exists. Are you and your family prepared?

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ER Visits for Older Americans May Signal Decline
6 Min Read February 20th, 2018 Updated:June 4th, 2022

Maybe you are noticing that your older parent is declining a bit. Often the first wake-up sign for an adult son or daughter that Mom or Dad may have some significant aging issues is when they learn of an emergency room visit. 

Research shows that ER visits by older Americans continue to increase every year. Studies are showing a 25% to 34% increase. Women are more likely to go to the ER with 62% compared to 38% men.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the annual visit rate to an ER among persons aged 65 years or more was 511/1000and it increases with age. Older patients have a higher rate of hospitalization, require more resources, and are at increased risk of adverse outcome

Falls a Leading Reason Older People End Up in the ER

Falls are one of the biggest reasons older Americans end up in the ER with an older American treated in an ER due to a fall every 11 seconds. Injuries from falls result in roughly 2.2 million emergency room visits a year for older adults.

A visit to an ER can signal the onset of serious health challenges in the elderly, even when they are not admitted. The health and age-related challenges can be a surprise to the family until they meet their parent at the hospital. 

Research published recently in the Annals of Emergency Medicine outlines these risks. Seniors were 14% more likely to have acquired a disability six months following a visit to an emergency room. These disabilities include an inability to independently bathe, dress, climb down a flight of stairs, shop, manage finances or carry a package. This is compared to older adults of the same age with similar illnesses who didn't end up in the ER.

"Illnesses or injuries that lead to ER visits can initiate "a fairly vulnerable period of time for older persons" and "we should consider new initiatives to address patients' care needs and challenges after such visits," study co-author Thomas Gill, M.D., professor of medicine, epidemiology and investigative medicine at Yale University, told Kaiser Health News.

Prior research has indicated seniors who already had problems with activities of daily living were especially vulnerable to the aftereffects of an ER visit.

ER Visit is a Wake-Up Call for Family

Emergency room staff may neglect to address the underlying reasons that lead seniors to visit the ER in the first place. These include depression, dementia, or delirium. If these conditions remain unaddressed by emergency room staff, they often lead to the necessity for long-term health care in a facility. 

Older people are at a higher risk of health and functional decline and developing medical complications after visiting the emergency room. Many of these ER visits could have been avoided if proper care had been provided in their home, but many families are unaware of the decline in loved ones, and seniors often resist sharing about their need for help.

For Americans over 65, many tend to cope with issues and hide these problems from family members. The ER visit becomes that wake-up call for the family and creates "crisis management" unless that senior had planned for long-term care in advance.

Longevity Requires Planning

Longevity has become a significant health and financial issue for people planning for their future retirements. The ER visit has become the wake-up call for the family. It often creates "crisis management" unless that senior had planned for long-term care in advance.

Why would seeking help in an ER often become a sentinel event with potentially adverse consequences for older adults?

Experts offer various suggestions. Older adults who previously were coping adequately but declining health catch up to them. They may be tipped into an "I can't handle this any longer" state by an injury or the worsening of a chronic illness, such as diabetes or heart failure. 

They now may need more help at home than available, and their health may spiral downward without the proper attention.

Experts suggest if you have an elderly family member, be sure to see how they are coping with their aging. Can they perform normal activities of daily living? Are they at risk for falls? Do you see any cognitive decline which may require them to need supervision? 

Find out of they have Long-Term Care Insurance. If they do, the benefits from the policy often provide resources for care at home, adult day care, assisted living memory care, and the traditional nursing home.

Some people think they are protected because they have some type of legal trust in place. This thinking is a fallacy. Trusts usually are not a plan for long-term health care or asset protection

If your elder parent is in excellent health, there may still be time to put a Long-Term Care insurance plan in place, depending on their age.

Think About Your Own Aging Before You Get Old

The best time to plan is before retirement. Too often, people in their 40s or 50s, despite planning for retirement, fail to plan for one of the most significant risks to retirement savings - the risk of needing long-term health care services. Experts say Long-Term Care Insurance is very affordable and much easier to obtain when younger and in reasonably good health.

Even people in good health overall can be ineligible for Long-Term Care insurance at one point or another. It's vital to sync up health and affordability when pursuing a Long- Term Care policy. Just like homeowner's insurance—you can't buy it when the house is on fire. Individuals often want to make use of this intersection early, when they' re young and healthy, to put a plan in place.

Cassandra Watson - a leading Long-Term Care specialist who runs NextGen LTC.

A parent's declining health, mobility problem, or dementia quickly creates a family crisis. This "crisis management" often forces adult children to make quick decisions about their parent's living conditions and care options.

Most of us never want to think about acquiring chronic illness, disability, needing help with our activities of daily living, or having short-term memory loss. Planning ahead can bring a tremendous relief for those closest to us.

Brent Donarski - a 30-year veteran of long-term care planning who operates MyLTCSpecialist.

The National Institute of Health says the continuing increase in lifespan for the U.S. population, including those with chronic diseases or disabilities, will increase the demand for more and improved quality of long-term health care. 

Older adults are healthier than ever. However, there is a growing number of older people with chronic conditions and disabilities. These disabilities are coming especially at very advanced ages, along with cognitive impairments and depression, which can substantially diminish the quality of life and functional status.

Caregiving is hard on family members. Spouses, especially if they are older, cannot provide quality care and risk their own health in the process. Adult children have their own careers and family responsibilities and can't be relied on for full-time caregiving roles. This is why an advance plan which includes affordable Long-Term Care Insurance is critical. 

Matt McCann, a leading expert on long-term health care planning.

McCann says LTC Insurance will provide access to the care recipient's choice of quality care services. These guaranteed tax-free benefits safeguard income and assets, protecting lifestyle and legacy while reducing the tremendous burdens otherwise placed on loved ones.

Retirement Plan Should Include Affordable LTC Insurance

Planning for the financial costs and burdens of aging is an essential part of retirement planning. Experts advise seeking the help of a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist who has extensive experience and works with multiple companies.

Most financial advisors and general insurance agents lack the required knowledge and skills to adequately advise their clients on how best to plan for the costs and burdens that longevity places on them and their families. 

Keep an Eye on Mom and Dad

Be cognizant of elderly family members and their aging problems so you can satisfactorily address their health and safety concerns. Then start thinking about your future and your future need for long-term health care in the decades ahead. The best time to plan is before you retire when you still enjoy good health and can take advantage of low premiums. 

Remember, without an advance plan, the family often becomes default caregivers. Caregiving is hard on your family, and professional care is expensive and changes income, lifestyle, and legacy.

No plan results in a family crisis which often starts in the emergency room. Better planning offers better outcomes. 

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

Don't place the future responsibility of your future health and aging needs on your family. Start your research into affordable Long-Term Care Insurance by researching well before you retire, as it is a crucial element of retirement planning.

Long-Term Care Insurance is an affordable way to give you access to your choice of quality care in the setting you desire. At the same time, a policy will protect your savings and income and reduce the stress otherwise placed on your family.

You deserve quality care and choice as you get older. You probably don't want to be dependent on your adult children. Family caregivers are not prepared to be caregivers and must juggle many other responsibilities, including their careers and families.

Long-Term Care Insurance has guaranteed tax-free benefits keeping you in control and allowing your loved ones the time to be family instead of your caregiver.

You might read that LTC Insurance is expensive, but the fact is that today's Long-Term Care Insurance is affordable and rate stable. Policies are custom-designed to fit your needs and budget. But, premiums vary over 100%, so better find qualified professional assistance to help you shop and design a plan.

The best time to get your coverage is when you are younger and healthier. Most people obtain coverage in their 50s.

Seek Professional Help Planning for Long-Term Care

Experts recommend seeking the help of a qualified and experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you find the right coverage. A specialist will match your age, health, and family history with the right coverage at the right price. 

Long-term care is a very specialized area, and few insurance agents and financial advisors have the expertise. Find a specialist who represents the top companies as premiums can vary over 100% between insurance companies. Leading specialists will often have over 500 clients with Long-Term Care Insurance.

A specialist will save you money, and you will have peace of mind knowing they are making the appropriate recommendations - Work With a Specialist | LTC News.

Planning Tools and Resources Available on LTC NEWS

Planning for the future is never easy, but long-term health care planning can be very complicated and comes with many emotions. Getting the right tools and resources will make the process much easier.

One of the goals is to reduce the stress and anxiety usually placed on your family at the time of crisis. LTC NEWS can be beneficial in providing you with important information for you to consider.

LTC NEWS has put in place several resources, including:

You might have questions and LTC NEWS provides the answers for many of the most asked questions here - Frequently Asked Questions | LTC News. Find all the resources available on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning | LTC News.

Does Mom or Dad Need Help Now?

If your family is already in crisis and you need to find help and the right care services for mom or dad, LTC NEWS can help. We have put together several comprehensive guides to help you in your process.

Start by reading our guides -  

If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea. 

Get Assistance in Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim

Many insurance companies have issued Long-Term Care Insurance policies over the years. Filing a claim can sometimes be complicated unless you know what to do or get expert help and assistance. 

Don't allow the claim process to stop you from using the benefits available in an LTC policy. Quality care obtained early will help provide a better quality of life and reduce the risk of a deep decline and facility care. 

If you need help in starting the process of a Long-Term Care Insurance claim, LTC NEWS can help. LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation to help you or a loved one complete the claims process with a Long-Term Care Insurance policy. We have teamed up with Amada Senior Care, who will do all the work - free with no obligation. 

Get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News

Advantages of Reverse Mortgages 

Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource to fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance. You might be eligible at younger ages as well. 

Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, and even help with cash flow during your retirement. 

Learn more by asking questions to an expert. Mike Banner, LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages. 

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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You can write a story or ongoing column for LTC NEWS. You can write about many topics, including aging, caregiving, health, lifestyle, retirement planning, and long-term care, to name a few.

Be sure to write for our core target audience of adults aged 40 and older. Our audience is worldwide; however, our primary target is the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and other English-speaking nations. 

Improve your website or blog's SEO and gain exposure and traffic at the same time by being a contributor to LTC NEWS. 

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Email your story idea or article: - LTC News Contributors | LTC News

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