Nationwide, seniors are one of the largest consumers of emergency and prehospital healthcare. Almost 16 million Americans aged 65 and older visited a hospital emergency room in 2004, and these older Americans made up one-third of all ambulance transports, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seniors can benefit greatly from outreach and education during EMS Week.
Area Agency on Aging
The best way to find local seniors is through your local Area Agency on Aging. These agencies provide information and resources to older adults and caregivers on a whole range of community services, such as nutrition services, transportation services, and health and wellness programs, said Helen Eltzeroth, Deputy Director of Programs and Communications at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.
If you’re not sure how to contact your local Area Agency for Aging, the federal Eldercare Locator program atwww.eldercare.gov, or (800) 677-1116 can tell you whom to call in your region.
Although seniors’ needs vary greatly by region, many Area Agencies on Aging have senior health initiatives and would welcome presentations from local EMS organizations at senior centers and other locations, said Eltzeroth. “There is a lot of effort being put into helping seniors know how to keep themselves healthy,” she said.
A presentation on how to use EMS “would be a perfect outreach to the local Area Agency on Aging,” Eltzeroth added. In addition to using the occasion of EMS Week to reach out to seniors, EMS agencies also might prepare presentations on emergency preparedness for National Preparedness Month in September, when many Area Agencies on Aging have special programs.
Seniors Sew Stuffed Animals for EMS’ Smallest Patients
Although EMS agencies often help the elderly, seniors also can be a resource for EMS. The Northern Wake Senior Center, along with two other senior activity centers administered by Resources for Seniors, serves more than 3,500 seniors in the area around Raleigh, North Carolina. These senior centers have made numerous contributions to local hospitals and the local EMS community.
About eight years ago, Rex Hospital in Raleigh asked Northern Wake Senior Center and other local senior club members to sew dolls to give to children in the hospital. In response, about 30 seniors in the Resources for Seniors crafts department created more than 3,000 dolls for the hospital and continue to sew projects for the hospital with materials provided by or donated to Rex Hospital.
The program has expanded, and today, the crafts department sews pillows for cancer patients, hats for newborns, afghans for seniors in nursing homes, and stuffed animals for EMS providers and police officers to distribute to the children they serve, said Program Director Miranda Strider-Allen.
The Northern Wake Senior Center offered the stuffed animals to their local EMS service because, said Strider-Allen, “They’re right down the street from us, and a lot of them [the EMTs] are related to our seniors, so it was an easy project to start.” The senior center has provided several hundred stuffed animals to EMS organizations locally.
This program is especially rewarding, Strider-Allen noted, when EMTs stop by to pick up the toys in person and talk about how they are used. “It makes [the seniors] really feel good knowing that the things are actually going to the people,” she said. “It makes them feel good to know that they [the EMTs] take the time out to come up to the senior center to actually meet them and that what they’re doing is very important.”
Diabetes care, fall prevention and flu prevention also are topics important to seniors about which your EMS agency could provide education and outreach.