Improve Critical Care for the Elderly


Target: Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary

Goal: Make emergency room care more suited to the needs of elderly patients

The emergency room is likely the last place we want to see our elderly friends and family members. Here, the possibility of losing our loved ones becomes ever more real, and we can only hope, often fearfully, that they are in good hands. Unfortunately, the reality is that today’s emergency rooms are ill equipped to provide quality care to elderly patients.

Already dealing with issues like overcrowding, hospital staff face increasing pressures to move patients through care with maximum efficiency. Such a model is not conducive to caring for elderly patients. The hectic, high-stress environment – often dreaded by physicians and hospital administrators as well –understandably overwhelms elderly patients. Moreover, on top of suffering from multiple chronic diseases and taking several prescription drugs, elderly patients often struggle with dementia. Their complex medical profiles make it so they cannot simply be rushed through care and sent home. Failing to account for elderly patients’ complete health status – by overlooking prescriptions that cross-react, for example – can cause serious harm to the patient.

Expected to double in number in the next forty years, elderly patients seeking help require providers trained to provide geriatric care. That care must account for social factors, like availability of transportation for follow-up medical visits and extra help filling out and taking prescriptions correctly.

Such systematic changes have been implemented successfully in pediatric, cardiac, and trauma emergency care. Our challenge is making improved geriatric care a priority for policymakers and care providers as well as communities at large. Please sign the petition below, and help our elderly friends and family members receive the respect and attention they deserve.


Dear Secretary Sebelius,

I am writing to bring your attention to a crisis in our hospitals’ critical care procedures. The way our emergency rooms work is simply not conductive to the health needs of elderly patients. The hectic, high-stress environment may understandably overwhelm these individuals, whose complex medical profiles including chronic disease, multiple prescriptions, and dementia, make it so they cannot simply be rushed through care and sent home.

We must take action to improve our care of this growing and vulnerable population. Training providers in geriatric care represents a vital first step. However, in taking that step, we must remember to ensure such care accounts for social factors of elderly patients’ health. I urge you to lead us in upholding our responsibility to care for the dignity of our elderly. Your leadership is instrumental in ensuring our elderly friends and family members receive the care they deserve and most desperately need.


[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: ClearRiver Advertising and Marketing via flickr

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