What Does a Geriatric Emergency Department Look Like?

A look inside UC San Diego's Emergency Department in La Jolla

Reproduced with permission from UC San Diego Health

Reproduced with permission.

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UC San Diego Health – A Level 1 Accredited GED

UC San Diego Health’s emergency department in La Jolla is home to California’s first accredited geriatric emergency department. The American College of Emergency Physicians designated the Gary and Mary West Emergency Department as a Level 1 accreditation — the highest and most comprehensive level.

The geriatric emergency department at UC San Diego Health is part of their senior medicine program, which is ranked among the nation’s top 15 programs for geriatric care by U.S. News & World Report.

Their geriatric ER focuses on delivering high-quality senior care in a separate, specialized space within the La Jolla emergency department. It has senior-specific exam rooms and observation bays. It also features architectural design elements to provide improved acoustics, safety and comfort for our elderly patients.

The video below walks you through the equipment and environment-specific design choices for this Level 1 facility.

This video is used here with permission from the authors.

Geriatric Emergency Department Care Team

All older patients who arrive at the La Jolla ER’s geriatric emergency department are treated by a team with special training in geriatric medicine, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists and social workers. They have expertise in issues such as fall risks, mobility challenges, cognitive and memory problems, and medication interactions. If follow-up care is needed, our experts will call in specialty care or refer the patient to a specialty care clinic.

The UCSD team also tries to lower hospital admissions and re-admissions for seniors. When older adults arrive, emergency providers go beyond treating the immediate complaint. Patients can get screened for additional issues, and the team takes the time to work with patients and caregivers to ensure a smooth transition from the ER to hospital admission or discharge to home.

Those who do need additional treatment may qualify for UCSD’s Acute Care at Home (ACH) program, which enables older adults to get medical care at home instead of hospitalization.

Special Environment Features for Older Adults


  • Non-slip flooring
  • Contrasting colors used for walls and floors, and between toilet/chair seats and floor to increase visibility and reduce risk of falls
  • No patterns in cubicle curtains or upholstery to reduce possible visual confusion
  • Side chairs and waiting room chairs with high backs and sturdy arms and legs to assist in sitting and standing
  • Patient toilets situated adjacent to staff work areas to better monitor patient use and needs
  • Nursing station visible from all patient rooms


  • Brighter lights as well as large, clear signage and artwork to make it easy for patients to find their way around
  • Tunable LED lights that increase the warm light spectra to more accurately assess patients’ physical conditions
  • Variable room lighting and window treatments that orient patients to the actual time of day


  • Sound-absorbing walls and ceilings to reduce ambient sound
  • Full-height walls between all patient care areas to reduce noise levels
  • Quieter alarms, pagers and other equipment to keep noise levels low and minimize potential anxiety
  • Sound technology to enhance clarity and resonance for patients with compromised hearing


  • Recliners to help patients change position, as needed, and improve mobility
  • Thick mattresses to enhance comfort and reduce pressure on the body
  • Paint colors conducive to the aging eye
  • Private caregiver lounge to provide a place for patients’ loved ones to relax close by

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