Reunion with Elderly Relatives for Many Includes Visit to the Emergency Department

What do you do?

“The Emergency Department can always provide an immediate assessment, contact the person’s doctor and determine if there is a problem,” said Mark DeSilva, MD, medical director, Gottlieb Emergency Department, part of Loyola University Health System. “If there is, we will admit the patient to the hospital and begin immediate care.”

With the trend of relatives living miles apart, planned family reunions during the holidays sometimes include a trip to the Emergency Department for an ailing senior relative.

Here are DeSilva’s five tips on how to tell if a senior relative needs immediate medical attention:

• The person is unkempt with poor personal hygiene

• The home is very messy, dirty and smells

• Minimal movement by the person seems to be painful

• Mentally, the person is agitated or confused

• The person has not seen a physician in several months and is visibly unwell

“Try to contact the primary-care physician first and alert them to the situation,” DeSilva said. But if holiday schedules or lack of information prevent that, bring them to the closest Emergency Department.

In the Emergency Department, you can expect the following:

• Patients will be asked their name, the date, where they are and who the president is.

• Medical staff will listen to lungs while patient takes deep breaths.

• Patient will be checked for signs of cardiac distress.

• Patients will be asked to walk so their gate can be observed.

• Patients’ vital signs will be checked, including respiration, blood pressure and temperature.

• Patients’ breathing will be monitored.

• Patients will be checked for pressure ulcers, bruises and dehydration.

• Patients’ pupils will be checked to see if they react equally on both sides.

• Patients will take part in a hand-grasp test to determine if grasp is even on both sides.

• Their height and weight will be recorded.

• Their urine will be checked for infection.

“There is always room at the inn at the ED – even on Christmas,” DeSilva said. “And proper medical care may be a better gift than a box of chocolates or fruitcake.”

Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, Loyola University Health System is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and 28 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola University Hospital, is a 569-licensed-bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-bed community hospital, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness and the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center.