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.

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ER Visits for Older Americans May Signal Decline
6 Min Read February 21st, 2018 Updated:February 5th, 2020
James Kelly

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

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 visit by older Americans continues to increase every year. Studies are showing a 25% to 34% increase. Women are more likely going to the ER with 62% compared to 38% men.

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. 

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. 

“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.

According to research published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine just six months after visiting an Emergency Room, seniors were 14 percent more likely to have acquired a disability — an inability to independently perform normal activities of daily living — than older adults of the same age, with a similar set of illnesses, who didn’t end up in the ER.

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

Longevity has become a significant health and financial issue for people who are planning for their future retirements. For American’s already 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.

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 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 what is available, and their health may spiral downward.

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, as well as adult daycare, assisted living memory care as well as the traditional nursing home.

Some people think they are protected because they have a trust in place. This thinking is a fallacy. Trusts are normally not a plan for long-term care or asset protection. Read this article about trusts and long-term care planning -

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

Think About Your Own Aging Before You Get Old

The best time to plan is before retirement. Experts say Long-Term Care insurance is very affordable and much easier to obtain when you are younger. 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 care services.

“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.” said Cassandra Watson, a leading Long-Term Care specialist who runs NextGen LTC.

Often, it is this “crisis management” that an adult son or daughter goes through that focuses the need for advance planning.

“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.,” explained 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 that require long-term care, will create a demand for more and improved quality of long-term care. 

While older adults are healthier than ever, there continues to be large numbers of older people with chronic conditions and disabilities, especially at very advanced ages, along with cognitive impairments and depression, all of which can substantially diminish the quality of life and functional status.

“Caregiving is hard on family members. Spouses, especially if they are older, are unable to 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 key. It will provide resources for quality care, thus safeguarding assets and protecting lifestyle while reducing the tremendous burdens placed on loved ones,” said Matt McCann, a leading expert on Long-Term Care.

Retirement Plan Should Include Affordable Long-Term Care 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 not only has extensive experience but works with multiple companies.

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

Find a trusted and experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist by clicking here. 

Be aware of elderly family members and their aging issues so you can adequately address their health and safety concerns.  Then start thinking for your future and your future need for long-term 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 the caregiver. Caregiving is hard on your family and paid care is expensive and changes income, lifestyle and legacy.

Long-Term Care Insurance is a very 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.

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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 doing some research.

LTC NEWS offers many research tools that are very useful. It would be best if you started by reviewing the current and future cost of extended care services, including home care, adult day care centers, assisted living facilities, memory care centers, and nursing homes. The LTC NEWS cost of care calculator will show you the cost of these care services in your area. Just click here

Review these frequently asked questions about long-term care planning and Long-Term Care Insurance. Check out the FAQs by clicking here.

Be sure to take action now, so years from now, your family won't be meeting you at the ER with no advance plan in place. Avoid the crisis. Give your family peace-of-mind and maintain your independence for the decades ahead.

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