The Evolving Role of EMS in Senior Care

Webinar Recording: The Evolving Role of EMS in Senior Care

Are we doing a good enough job of taking care of our seniors, especially when they have multimorbidities including dementia? There is evidence that suggests we are not. Jan Dougherty offers a webinar recording to explore this issue as it relates to EMS professionals and what can be done to protect these vulnerable assisted living residents.

As people age their risk for falls increases. 

According to the CDC:

  • Nearly one in three older Americans fall each year. 
  • One in five falls causes serious harm, such as broken bones or a head injury.
  • At least 250,000 older persons are hospitalized every year from hip fractures, with 95% of these caused by falling.
  • Falling injuries result in $34 billion in direct costs every year.

Emergency admissions are even more prevalent among seniors with multimorbidities including dementia. 

Key risk factors for falls include many conditions associated with dementia such as muscular weakness, history of falls, visual, gait, and balance deficits, impaired functioning, depression, and cognitive impairment. The importance of these conditions cannot be overstated in considering approaches to falls prevention, as many of the causes are quite prevalent among people with dementia. For example, it is estimated that 89% of long-term care residents with dementia experience at least some degree of mobility impairment.

In her latest webinar, Jan Dougherty explores issues relating to senior living residents with dementia and the EMS professionals who are often called to respond to their health emergencies. 

Jan is the Family and Community Services Director at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. She is responsible for setting a new standard of care for dementia patients and their families through development and implementation of innovative programs including early stage programming, arts and dementia, and an array of caregiver education programs.  

This webinar recording is the first of what will be multiple conversations on understanding EMS and why they have recently started fighting to reduce the amount of calls they get from senior care facilities. In some states the percentage of calls EMS is receiving from senior related incidents is more than 80%. 

This has prompted bills to be proposed that would require RAL’s to have a nurse on staff or someone with a medical background. This isn’t feasible for small care homes because they are not a medical facility and they do not have the income to support a 24-hour nurse. 

There are other regulations proposed that have passed in states that are amended versions of the original bills and they no longer require a nurse. Although, the ultimate goal is to reduce the “burden” on EMS. 

According to Jan, the issue is really a matter of misunderstanding. She works with local fire departments in Arizona to educate them on dementia and how to properly handle senior care incidents, especially if someone has dementia. You can imagine coming into a facility with a huge fire truck and 10 huge men dressed in uniform can be triggering for residents with cognitive issues. 

There is a need for reform in the response, EMS needs to have a better understanding of the capabilities of the staff in RAL’s, who are not medical professionals, and be more patient with their needs for the sake of the residents that they may be called to assist. While the RAL staff also need to understand that EMS are traditionally trained to fight fires, rescue people from car accidents and usually deadly situations. 

Jan proposes that we develop a system in the EMS response where when someone falls or has an incident at a senior care facility there is a specialized dispatch unit that isn’t in a big fire truck or ambulance unless it’s needed and the people are dressed in normal clothing and understand dementia care specifically. This way we reduce the time that is taken from emergency situations and redirect our efforts. If the call volume is similar across multiple states then it only makes sense to either train their emergency personnel or designate a special unit for senior care.

Explore this important and evolving conversation and listen to the webinar recording here:

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