Geriatrics-Friendly Emergency Care

One of the places where older adults may receive health care is the emergency department (ED) at a hospital. ED visits can be confusing and intimidating for anyone. This is especially true for older adults and caregivers. The ED is often loud and can seem chaotic. Busy health professionals may conduct very quick initial evaluations. This is understandable in an emergency. However, the evaluation may likely be too brief to effectively cover an older person’s chronic medical problems and medications. Long waits and a confusing environment can also make it more likely for older adults in the ED to develop delirium.

Delirium is a serious state of mental confusion that can lead to difficulty thinking and remembering.

Fortunately, some EDs are changing and getting more “geriatrics-friendly.” Many hospitals are recognizing the importance of geriatrics principles (principles from the branch of health care dedicated to our care as we age). These hospitals are changing their EDs to make them safer and more effective for older individuals.

If you are an older adult or someone who cares for an older person, it can help to learn about “geriatrics-friendly” ED care and whether it’s available in your area. This can help put you at ease if you ever need emergency medical attention.

Characteristics of a geriatrics-friendly ED


Source: Geriatric Emergency Department Guidelines, developed and endorsed by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Geriatrics Society, the Emergency Nurses Association, and the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, and supported through the AGS Geriatrics-for-Specialists Initiative which is funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation. See for the full guidelines. 

Last Updated August 2019

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