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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

San Diego wants to make hospitals more senior-friendly

The goal is to have all emergency rooms across the county become accredited for geriatric care by 2021.

SAN DIEGO —

Half a million seniors call San Diego County “home.”  That number's expected to double in the next decade. 

Seniors can find hospitals intimidating because they don't always cater to their needs. San Diegans are hoping to change that. 

On Monday, nine healthcare organizations from around the county gathered at UCSD health to pledge to join the "Senior Emergency Care Initiative." The goal is to have all emergency rooms across the county become accredited for geriatric care by 2021.

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Alvarado Hospital and UC San Diego Health have already achieved various levels of accreditation. Kaiser Permanente San Diego, Palomar Health, Paradise Valley Hospital, Scripps Health, Sharp HealthCare, Tri-City Medical Center, VA San Diego Healthcare System and the Hospital Association of San Diego and Imperial Counties have pledged to join the effort.

"Many of them have Alzheimer's or dementia or other critical medical problems that are different from others that are much younger,” said Dianne Jacob, Chair of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. 

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It's the first such countywide public-private commitment in the nation. West Health and the County of San Diego have contributed $700,000 to the effort.

“Supporting our region’s hospitals as they pursue senior-friendly care in their emergency departments is an important part of the Aging Roadmap, the county’s regional vision and framework for supporting healthy aging,” said Jacob. 

In order to meet accreditation standards, hospitals have to fulfill a wide spectrum of best practices, including enhanced staffing and education, policies and protocols that focus on the needs of seniors, as well as senior-friendly physical enhancements. Enhanced architectural elements include sound-absorbing walls and ceilings to reduce ambient noise, contrasting colors between walls and floors to reduce fall risk, as well as mobility aids and improved lighting.