Getting older can bring about unique health challenges that, if left untreated, can lead to serious consequences. Nearly 92% of seniors have at least one chronic disease and about 77% have at least two, according to the National Council of Aging. Heart disease, stroke and diabetes are among the most common and costly chronic health conditions among the senior population causing two-thirds of deaths.
Beyond chronic health concerns, older Americans are at greater risk for falls due to shrinking bones and the loss of strength and flexibility associated with aging. A senior dies from falling every 29 minutes, making it the leading cause of injury among the elderly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But the elderly community in the Mid-Valley can count on South Texas Health System ER Weslaco to receive dedicated geriatric care. The freestanding emergency department has earned a Level 3 Geriatric Emergency Department accreditation from the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). The bronze level designation by the organization dedicated to advancing emergency care acknowledges STHS ER Weslaco’s dedication to providing a high standard of care that meets the unique healthcare needs of older adults living in the Rio Grande Valley.
“Weslaco’s accreditation signals to the public that your institution is focused on the highest standards of care for your communities’ older adults,” reads the official letter from ACEP. “Led by a remarkable team of interdisciplinary leaders, including Gerald Banks, MD, MS and Christen Ann Wirth, RN, BSN, this accreditation signals to the public that [the] institution is focused on the highest standards of care for your communities’ older adults.”
The Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation (GEDA) program was developed by the American College of Emergency Physicians along with the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, Emergency Nurses Association and American Geriatrics Society to improve and standardize emergency care for older patients through enhanced staffing and education, geriatric-focused policies and protocols and more efficient preparation of the treatment area. It includes geriatric emergency department guidelines combined with recommending measures ranging from adding geriatric-friendly equipment to specialized staff to more routine screening for delirium, dementia and fall risk, among other vulnerabilities.
As a Level 3 GEDA emergency department, STHS ER Weslaco must incorporate many of the GEDA program’s best practices, along with providing inter-disciplinary geriatric education and having geriatric appropriate equipment and supplies available.
“South Texas Health System strives to be a national leader in providing quality, compassionate evidence-based care for the populations we serve, including the elderly,” says Brenda Ivory, Chief Executive Officer, South Texas Health System Heart, who oversees the system’s six freestanding emergency departments including STHS ER Weslaco. “This certification is living proof of our commitment to bring an underserved population important access to healthcare that’s focused on their specific needs and special requirements.”
To better serve seniors across all communities that make up the Rio Grande Valley, South Texas Health System is working with the American College of Emergency Physicians to receive the Geriatric Emergency Department Accreditation at all six of its freestanding emergency department by the end of 2023.