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10 Reasons Seniors End Up in the ER

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenAugust 8, 2017

Almost a quarter of all seniors will visit the emergency room. What brings older adults in? You might be surprised.

Learn more about the top 10 reasons seniors end up in the ER.

10 Conditions That Land Seniors in the ER

Falls, heart attacks and strokes — these are the conditions we usually think of as senior emergency room visits. The truth is that seniors visit the ER for a lot of other reasons that may be just as critical, such as adverse drug effects, COPD and infections.

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Caregivers should be aware of the symptoms that are most likely to lead to a serious diagnosis in seniors.

If you have seniors under your care, these are the 10 conditions that you’ll want to pay attention to:

1. Abdominal Pain

Digestive disease, food poisoning and infection can all cause abdominal pain or nausea; so can kidney stones, which may result from dehydration, malnutrition or other medical conditions, according to Discovery Health.

2. Accidents and Injuries

Exhaustion, falls, injuries, traffic accidents — these are the types of acute issues that most often land seniors in the emergency room, according to the CDC.

3. Adverse Effects and Complications of Medical Treatment

Adverse drug reactions are a shockingly common cause of emergency room visits in the elderly, including unexpected side effects, interactions with other drugs, or inappropriate self-medication, as reported by NIH.

4. Chest Pain

As mentioned above, chest pain can be a symptom of heart disease; it can also be caused by other problems such as blood clots, gastrointestinal issues, heart attacks, injuries or even respiratory infections, according to WebMD.

5. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

According to the CDC, COPD covers a number of conditions including bronchitis, chronic airway obstruction and emphysema. Coughing, fatigue and shortness of breath are some possible symptoms, as reported by WebMD.

6. Heart Disease

Some of the most common symptoms reported by seniors in emergency room visits are chest pain and shortness of breath, both potential indicators of heart disease, which is still the leading cause of death in the U.S., as reported by Discovery Health.

7. Pneumonia

Pneumonia is one of the most common upper respiratory infections to land seniors in the ER. Signs may be milder in older adults, and can include shortness of breath, coughing and confusion or delirium, according to WebMD.

8. Spinal Disorders

Back pain is another symptom that commonly brings seniors to the ER, whether the pain is due to an injury to the back or neck, a vertebral disc disorder, or an inflammatory condition such as arthritis.

9. Stroke

Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. It has a distinct pattern of symptoms, which means a vigilant caregiver can often prevent long-term damage if the patient is treated quickly enough, according to the CDC.

10. Urinary Tract Infection

This is yet another reason why seniors should make sure they’re getting enough fluids — 31% of seniors are chronically dehydrated, and one of the best ways to prevent UTIs is to drink plenty of water, as reported by the CDC.

If you’re a caregiver or family member of an older adult, be sure to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of these common emergency medical issues and you’ll be better prepared to deal with them if they should arise.

Has your senior loved one gone to the ER for one of the reasons above? Tell us your senior emergency room visit story in the comments below.

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