'Tis the season for elderly emergency room visits

The holidays are typically the time for families to gather for fun and cheer. But for families who haven’t been keeping track of an elderly relative’s health, the festivities may include a trip to the emergency room, a recent news article suggests.

Sometimes, families who spend most of their time apart are alarmed when they finally reconnect and see the health condition of an older relative, according to Dr. Tamara Kuittinen, director of medical education in the Department of Emergency Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in a recent HealthDay News item. In their panic, they take Grandma or Grandpa to the emergency room, increasing the flow of holiday healthcare traffic. But these trips are usually unnecessary, Kuittinen said. Often, children of aging parents are simply unaware of how the aging process works, she suggests.

Kuittinen and her colleagues estimate a 10% to 20% increase in the number of elderly emergency room patients during the holidays. They note their estimates were arrived at not scientifically, but through years of first-hand observation, according to HealthDay. Families could reduce the number of holiday emergency room visits simply by staying in touch with elderly relatives, rather than waiting for a yearly get-together to find out how they’re doing, Kuittinen suggests.