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ER Visits for Elderly Rise During Thanksgiving
Date:11/25/2009

itical medical information about your loved ones. The list should include their doctors' names, telephone numbers and addresses. In addition, know what medications they are taking, the dosages and any allergies they may have. Older patients often see several specialists and take multiple medications, which pose a real risk of dangerous drug interactions. If possible, get written permission from the relative to speak to his or her doctor if you have questions about treatment.
  • Make sure your relative has access to a list of emergency contact telephone numbers (including your own) programmed into their phones and posted on their refrigerator or other visible places.
  • Discuss the possibility of creating a living will or health-care proxy. Health-care proxies help doctors and other providers make decisions in the event the patient is unable to talk. Living wills address such complicated and emotional issues as when to give or withhold lifesaving resuscitation.
  • A once-a-year discussion about your loved one's health is not enough. Stay in contact with them. Regularly check in to see how they are doing. Make an effort to keep abreast of their conditions, medical tests and medications. Ask them if they are keeping their doctors' appointments.
  • Finally, for many patients, the emergency department should not be the first place they go. Ramsay cautions family members from taking their elderly relatives to the hospital unless absolutely necessary. All hospitals present a risk of exposure to infections and unnecessary tests, he noted.

    First, seek guidance from the patient's own physician if possible, Ramsay said.

    "The bottom line is that if someone is worried and they have no other access to medical care, then they should definitely go to the emergency room," Ramsay said.

    More information

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers an

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