First Aid for Seniors
Supporting and assisting our elderly parents and friends is becoming more important with the latest diagnostic machines and medications, we are living longer.
There is also a trend to try and keep the elderly in their homes as long as possible. As you get older you may find yourself in a position that you are required to care for your older parent at home.
The elderly are often more vulnerable to accidents at home as they may have failing eyesight, hearing loss, unsteady on their feet with balance issues and reduced motor skills.
The following provides First Aid hints to help support elderly people in their homes.
Trips and Falls
It is important to remember that some aged persons can’t see as well as they used too and also loose some of their depth perception. This leads to tripping and sometimes falling over the most benign obstacles such as mats and changes in slight floor elevations moving from carpet to tiled floors. The consequences can be catastrophic and leave them bed ridden.
Be prepared by:
- Remove all of the clutter in room and hallways
- Install grab bars near the shower and toilet
- Install anti-scald devices in the showers and faucets
- Ensure cables are tucked away to avoid tripping
- Install nightlights in thoroughfares and hallways
- Ensure their mobile phone is charges at all times and emergency call numbers on their speed dial
If an elderly person falls at home, it can be difficult to get them back on their feet. By trying to do this by yourself you can not only do yourself an injury but make their injuries worse. It is recommended that you call for assistance through the ambulance service in this situation.
Cuts and Abrasions
As people get older their skin gets thinner and is less flexible than that of younger people. Older people can suffer cuts, abrasions and degloving injuries at home just by going about their normal daily activities. Once the skin is broken it is open for infections and can be very challenging to treat. If this happens at home, cover the wound with a non-adherent dressing, bandage the dressing to keep it in place and follow-up with medical advice.
Heart Attack and Stroke
Heart attack and strokes are two medical conditions that can be life threatening in the elderly. If you suspect that an elderly person you are caring for is suffering one of these conditions, then you need to call 000 for an ambulance, as this is an emergency. Both of these conditions are time critical and require immediate medical intervention.
The elderly have the same emotions, anxiety and stress that most people suffer. Here are some symptoms to look for if you think an elderly person might be struggling.
- Changes in appearance or dress, or problems maintaining the home or yard.
- Confusion, disorientation, problems with concentration or decision-making.
- Decrease or increase in appetite, changes in weight.
- Depressed mood lasting longer than two weeks.
- Feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt, helplessness; thoughts of suicide.
- Memory loss, especially recent or short-term memory problems.
- Physical problems that cannot otherwise be explained: aches, constipation, etc.
- Social withdrawal: loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable.
- Trouble handling finances or working with numbers.
- Unexplained fatigue, energy loss or sleep changes.
It is important to visit regularly and keep them engaged in activities and conversations.
As the elder person gets older, they can often become confused about basic requirements and details that we take for granted. The elderly can often be prescribed a variety of medications for a myriad of medical conditions. These medications should be purchased from the same chemist where the chemist can supply them in “Webster Packs” allocated into daily doses to avoid over or under dosing by the patient.
Doctor Visits and Check-ups
When an elderly person is still living at home, it is important to remember a simple doctors visit can be seen by them as an outing and a big event. It is important to remember the following hints.
Start preparing to take them early. Give yourself enough time to get ready and be relaxed before and during the trip. Have a laminated sheet of paper with the days of the week printed down one side. By filling in the appointment pick-up times, it empowers them to know the times and dates to be ready. Write down any questions, concerns, problems, or new symptoms that they may have mentions in passing conversation and forgotten.
Take note of what the doctor has said so that you understand what needs to be done at home. Ask questions of the doctor so that you fully understand what the doctor is explaining. Make sure you understand the condition and the medications, and any potential side effects that the patient may suffer.
Finally, many elderly people see multiple doctors and specialists and for this reason it is important that you explain to each of the doctors the conditions the elderly patient has, so that when the doctor is prescribing medications they don’t cross over or conflict with each other.
This article was written by Henry Winzar. Henry has significant experience as a Paramedic, Educator and Manager in the QLD Ambulance service.