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Upstate University Hospital offers seniors calmer ER experience

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Upstate University Hospital's Community Campus will be opening up a new emergency room next week that caters to seniors. The goal behind the new E.R. at Upstate's Community General Campus, is to make sure an emergency room visit doesn't turn into an admission to the hospital.

Emergency Medicine Director Jamie Ciaccio says the new eight-bed unit, called Gem Care, will feature safety measures and aesthetics aimed at seniors, as well as a staff trained in geriatrics. Other healthcare professionals will also be available to assist elderly patients.

"Probably the biggest aspect is the presence of social workers and case managers who will help us coordinate with the outpatient services, visiting nurses, home health aides and the patient's own primary care physician, so we can safely send people home and not admit them to the hospital," Ciaccio said. "Something we know the senior population doesn't want. They do not want to be in the hospital. And it's better for them to be in their own home."

Ciaccio hopes a calmer, quieter atmosphere cuts down on unnecessary hospitalizations for seniors. He says often patients with mild dementia come to the emergency room.

"You put them in an unusual environment like a regular emergency department, that seems chaotic and noisy where people are running around, guess what, they get agitated," Ciaccio said. "And when they get agitated, we have to sedate them so they don't climb out of bed and fall down. Now you've got a sedated patient, and it's hard to send them home. And it starts the whole process of admitting them to the hospital and deconditioning, and they get weaker and go home not as strong as before, and that's what we're trying to prevent."

Gem Care is part of a nationwide trend, as a growing senior population has placed a higher premium on senior care.

This new unit will offer a more serene atmosphere than the regular E.R., with natural lighting and patient beds with thicker mattresses, as well as safety measures like non-skid floors and handrails.

The new department will begin taking patients Tuesday, July 2.