The Cottages Blog

8 Common Reasons Seniors End up in the ER and How to Avoid Them

Posted by Dawn Owens on Nov 5, 2016 9:00:00 AM


There are many reasons why seniors may end up in the emergency room. While it is not always possible to prevent an ER trip, knowing the most common reasons that a hospital visit may occur is the first step in preventing an unwanted ER visit. Seniors and their caregivers should be aware of the most common medical conditions that can result in a trip to the hospital. Remember that it is always best to seek out medical attention if you are dealing with a potentially dangerous medical situation. Here are some of the more common reasons seniors end up in the ER.

1. Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain and nausea can occur for a number of reasons. Digestive disease, kidney stones, urinary tract infections (see below), food poisoning, and infection are some of the more common reasons seniors may experience abdominal pain. In some cases, malnutrition and dehydration could be the culprits. Make sure you remember to eat healthy, well-balanced meals and drink plenty of water.

2. Back Pain

Back pain can be a symptom of several different spinal disorders, such as back or neck injuries, a vertebral disc disorder, or a condition that causes joints to swell, such as arthritis. Back pain can be caused by obesity, inactivity, or even sleeping on an old mattress. Sometimes, back pain can be managed by applying heat to the area and taking over-the-counter pain medication. If your back pain persists for a long period of time, you should talk to your doctor about what might be causing it.

3. Complications from Medicine

Many medications can cause adverse drug reactions and have unexpected side effects. Medications can also interact with other drugs. Incorrectly self-medicating is one of the most common reasons that a senior may experience complications from medicines. Proper medication management is an important key in preventing some ER visits. Make sure you are taking the correct doses of your medications at the right times.

4. Heart Disease and Chest Pain

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, so it’s very important to pay attention to any symptoms that may point to heart disease. Chest pain and shortness of breath are both common heart disease symptoms. However, chest pain can also be a symptom of many other medical conditions, such as heart attacks, blood clots, respiratory infections, gastrointestinal issues, or injuries. If you are experiencing chest pain, you should seek out medical attention as soon as possible.

5. Injuries and Accidents

Falls, traffic accidents, exhaustion, and other injuries are all reasons that send seniors to the ER. While you can’t avoid every injury, you can take care of yourself and keep your body as healthy as possible. Make sure that you don’t let yourself get worn out, you eat properly, you exercise, and you drink plenty of fluids. Having a daily exercise routine can help you prevent some falls. Knowing when it’s time to stop driving can help keep you from becoming the cause of a traffic accident.

6. Lung Diseases

Pneumonia and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) are the most common lung diseases seen in seniors. COPD covers several different conditions, like bronchitis, emphysema, and chronic airway obstruction. Pneumonia and COPD have similar symptoms of shortness of breath, coughing, fatigue, and confusion. If you are experiencing any symptoms of lung disease, you should seek medical attention.

7. Stroke

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States, and it is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the US. Knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke can help prevent long-term damage. People who are treated quickly enough for stroke can recover with little to no lasting effects. The key to spotting a stroke can be found in the acronym F.A.S.T., which stands for Face Drooping, Arm Weakness, Speech Difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1.

8. Urinary Tract Infections

A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) can be very painful and uncomfortable. Common symptoms of a UTI are abdominal pain, fever or chills, painful and frequent urination, and dark or bloody urine. Dehydration is the main reason people get a UTI. Chronic dehydration is a very real problem in the senior community that affects 31 percent of seniors in the US. Make sure that you are drinking enough fluids throughout the day, particularly when it is very hot outside and when you have been moving around a lot. Drinking plenty of water is the best way to avoid getting a UTI.



Topics: Senior Safety, Senior Health Care

Dawn Owens

Written by: Dawn Owens

Dawn has been part of the Cottage family for over 10 years. She comes from a strong background in mental health care, with a certification in crisis intervention. Dawn has two daughters, Alika and Ava. She enjoys walking, scrapbooking, and playing softball.