New VA emergency care program to aid older veterans

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The Department of Veterans Affairs has set in motion a collaboration between the agency and three private organizations to improve emergency care for older veterans.

The American College of Emergency Physicians, The John A. Hartford Foundation and the West Health Institute will accredit 70 VA emergency departments in senior care. Sixteen departments have already received accreditation, with four others currently pending.

“Nearly half of the nation’s 19.5 million veterans are over 65 years old and account for more than 45% of [emergency department] visits at VA hospitals, more than double the [emergency department] visit rate for seniors nationwide,” said Dr. Steven L. Lieberman, VA acting under secretary for health, in a statement announcing the partnership. “With COVID-19 highlighting the importance of geriatric emergency care around the world, through this initiative, the VA continues to rise to the occasion by infusing age-friendly emergency care practices and improving care coordination in communities across the nation.”

VA emergency rooms will be better equipped and staffed to screen patients for ailments associated with aging, including cognitive impairment, delirium, fall risks and others.

The department expects full accreditation of all 70 VA geriatric emergency departments by December 2022.