Holidays Spark Rise in Emergency Room Visits | News | Loyola Medicine
Friday, December 19, 2014

Holidays spark rise in emergency room visits, ER physician says

Depression, alcohol/drug abuse and injuries top the list

MAYWOOD, Ill. (December 19, 2014) – While it is true that suicide rates are actually lower at the holidays compared with other times of the year, these weeks can be very lonely for those with nowhere to go and no one to turn to. As a result, the hospital emergency department sees an increase in visits from people who have engaged in potentially self-destructive or depressive behavior.

“For those who have no support system, no friends, family, loved ones or even co-workers, the holidays can prove very deadly,” said Mark DeSilva, MD, Emergency Department, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of the Loyola University Health System. “Everywhere there are signs of gatherings, gift exchanges, happiness and love. If you are not experiencing what the rest of the world is enjoying, it is very bitter.” Often there are signs that a person may be feeling overwhelmed. And there are opportunities to intervene.

Here are Dr. DeSilva’s five tips to identify individuals who may be vulnerable during the holidays:

  • Isolated behavior – “Most people are busy going to social gatherings, shopping, attending events and connecting with friends,” DeSilva said. “Look for those who shun social interaction or who consistently do not attend events that they say they will."
  • Angry mood – “The person expresses sarcasm, unhappiness or criticism of others’ joy in the season and is consistently pessimistic,” he said.
  • Alcohol or drug excess – “Beer or cocktails, readily available throughout the holidays, or illegal drugs, are overindulged to numb the pain the individual is feeling and offer an escape from reality,” DeSilva said.
  • Frequently missing from work/social activities – “Facing others who are happy and bright is often too difficult for those feeling the holiday blues,” DeSilva said. “They may be consistently absent or very late to work or no-shows at anticipated social engagements."
  • Excessive sleeping – “Depression often takes the guise of extreme fatigue or tiredness. The body shuts down to form an escape from the everyday world,” DeSilva said.

If you see signs of extreme behavior in a friend, family member or acquaintance, act immediately. “Talk to the individual and talk to them about the behavior that you are seeing and offer to help,” DeSilva said. “There are social services, community groups, churches and other programs that can intervene."

DeSilva routinely has seen increases in emergency room patients during the many years he has worked at Gottlieb, a community hospital based in the western suburbs. “The holidays bring out desperate behavior in unstable individuals and they frequently end up in the ED as a medical emergency."

Gottlieb Memorial Hospital’s full-service Emergency Department serves as a Level II Trauma Center, meaning specialists are on-call 24/7 to handle critical cases. All Gottlieb physicians are board certified in Emergency Medicine. All staff nurses are certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, and the majority are certified in Advanced Pediatric Life Support. Gottlieb is part of Loyola University Health System and partners regularly on patient care with Loyola University Medical Center, an academic medical system.

The aftereffects of the last recession also have contributed to depression and engagement in risky behavior.

“Loss of a job or the unavailability of extra money for presents for loved ones can lead to low self-esteem and contribute to the person making poor choices,” DeSilva said. “By recognizing when a person is in trouble, and speaking out, you may not only save them a trip to the ED, but also save a life.”

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.