First Aid for Seniors – Special Precautions and Needs

Aug 14, 2023

First Aid for Seniors Everyone has occasional minor injuries and illnesses. In most cases, a little rest is all that is needed to recover. Dealing with minor cuts, colds, headaches, etc. is not an issue, and rarely is medical aid required. But in the case of the aged, those over 65, even a slight stumble that causes a small bruise, which younger people forget about, could result in health complications. When it comes to the aged, simple first aid and home treatment are often not enough and it is important to know the special precautions that need to be taken to keep them safe.

Among the situations where the elderly may require specialized care are:

  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Falling down
  • Heat and cold related illnesses
  • Cuts and bruises

Cardiovascular Problems

As people age, changes to the metabolism, especially the heart and blood vessels, put them at increased risk of heart attacks, strokes and related health problems. Cardiac conditions always require professional medical treatment, but knowing the signs of such ailments is vital to being able to provide essential first aid until medical care becomes available. While the symptoms of heart-related disorders may vary greatly, in general they are:

  • Strokes: Difficulty in speaking, sudden weakness, confusion, loss of balance, changes in vision, sudden headache, and drooping of the face due to weakening of the facial muscles.
  • Heart attacks: Chest pain, discomfort in the upper part of the body and shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing.

If an elderly person is experiencing any of these symptoms, the first thing to do is to summon medical aid. While waiting for the help to arrive, keep them warm and keep their mouth open to help them breathe. Check to see that the tongue has not retreated into the throat and is obstructing the airway. If it is, try to gently clear it. Keep talking to the patient to reassure them and tell them that help is on the way and there is no reason to worry. If the person is unconscious, and you know how to do CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), start doing it. If you do not know CPR, call out for someone who does know it.

Falling Down

It’s estimated that 1 in 3 adults over the age of 65 fall down every year. These falls could result in:

  • Fractures
  • Head injuries
  • Lacerations
  • Damaged muscles, ligaments and tendons

When an aged person falls:

  • If they do not seem to be badly hurt, help to place them in a comfortable position. If bruises and bumps develop, keep the injured part of the body elevated and apply a cold compress for 10 minutes. If the pain does not subside or if the swelling or bruising increases, the problem could be more serious and medical help should be summoned. If there is any serious bleeding, bruising or pain, get medical care without delay.
  • If the person appears to have hurt their head, neck, back, hips or thighs, do not move them. Call for medical assistance without delay. Keep them warm until help arrives and if they stop breathing, perform CPR.

Heat And Cold Related Illnesses

As a person ages, the body’s ability to regulate its temperature reduces. This means that they are more prone to illnesses caused by high or low ambient temperatures. The two most common problems of this nature are:

  • Heatstroke - The symptoms include:
    • Body temperature above 104 degrees F or 40 degrees C
    • Rapid breathing
    • Headache
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting

If an elderly person has heatstroke, call for medical help. While waiting for it to arrive, move them into a cooler place and sponge them off with cool (not cold) water. Cover the body with damp sheets or towels and make them drink cool water. Start CPR if there are breathing problems.

  • Hypothermia -  The symptoms include:
    • Shivering
    • Dizziness
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Rapid breathing
    • Mental confusion
    • Sudden hunger pangs

When a senior has hypothermia, call for medical help. While waiting for it to arrive keep them warm by bringing them to a warmer area, removing any wet clothes and covering them with blankets. Focus on warming the chest and abdomen first.

Cuts And Bruises

Skin becomes thinner and more fragile with age, increasing the possibility of cuts and bruises. Because the immune system becomes weaker with age, this could result in medical complications. Those with heart problems and diseases like diabetes are at high risk of complications.

  • Minor cuts and bruises:
    • Clean the injured area with clean water if it is bleeding
    • Apply a disinfectant to the wound
    • Put a bandage or clean cloth on the wound
    • Place the bandage/cloth on firmly to stop the bleeding
    • Elevate the bruised area or wound
    • If the bleeding continues, apply a second layer of bandage/cloth
    • If there is only bruising, apply a cold compress
    • If the bleeding or pain does not reduce in a short while, get medical help
  • Severe wounds:
    • If the wound is a deep one or if the bruising is severe, get medical help without delay
    • While waiting for help to arrive, keep the injured area clean by washing it with clean water
    • Bandage the wound to reduce bleeding
    • Elevate the injury
    • Keep the injured person immobile
  • If antibiotic cream or ointment is handy, ask when calling for medical help if it should be applied. Unless you are sure of what you are doing, it is better not to apply anything to the wound or bruise without medical advice.

Elderly people, unless they are suffering from chronic ailments, are not patients and should not be treated as if they are unwell – that can be demoralizing and depressing for them and this could contribute to various medical disorders. That said, they are more prone to medical problems than younger people so being prepared to deal with health problems is essential. That is why those who are with the elderly when health problems arise have such an important role to play in providing initial care.

Preventive actions to protect the health of the elderly are always the best way to keep them safe. One way of doing this is to know where to go for preventive care and treatment if problems should arise. A multispecialty hospital that has specialized departments to provide medical care in various critical fields is the best choice. If the hospital has health checkup packages that will meet the needs of seniors this will provide advance warning of any potential health issues. A hospital that offers both checkups and specialized care is the best option as both preventive care and treatment if a disorder should occur are available at the same place.

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