Emergencies that can require caregivers to administer medical help to a senior loved one can happen to anyone, at any time of the day or night.
Are family caregivers ready to minister to senior’s health needs? Are you?
Of course, if it is something traumatic, the first course of action is to call 911.
If it is not life threatening or while awaiting first responders, caregivers need to know what to do.
Medical Treatment for Seniors
Basic medical care techniques are skills most family caregivers should have in case of emergency.
It is a great idea for family caregivers to take a few classes in first aid, including CPR, Heimlich maneuver, and emergency first aid.
These techniques can be life saving for your senior loved one.
There are many organizations that provide these helpful classes across the country, such as the Red Cross, American Heart Association, and local healthcare systems.
If you can’t locate a class near you, there are online training courses you can take from home.
There are some events that are more likely to occur in seniors such as these:
Seniors are at risk for falling, especially if they have trouble with balance, loss of muscle mass or multiple chronic health conditions.
It is important to prevent falls whenever possible, but they can still occur.
If your senior falls, don’t try to get them up without checking them out first. They could be injured and getting them up too quickly could make the injury worse.
Here is a video helping your senior get up more safely after a fall. If they appear to be injured with a broken bone, stroke or head injury, call 911 and keep them still until help arrives.
Seniors skin becomes more fragile with age and loss of collagen. It becomes thinner and more vulnerable to tearing.
If a cut is superficial, cleaning and applying antibiotic ointment may be all that is needed; a bandage can help keep it clean but sometimes air drying is effective.
If a cut is deeper, stop the bleeding and assess to see if it will need more medical attention.
Some cuts bleed more than others, depending on their location and can be frightening. Also be aware that seniors who take a blood thinner may bleed more, take longer to cease bleeding and may need medical advice or a checkup to see if their medication levels are appropriate.
Older adults can experience difficulty swallowing and may have choking episodes, especially on certain foods such as hard meats, gummy foods, and stringy vegetables.
Coughing occurs often but choking is serious and needs immediate medical attention, especially if the airway is blocked.
If your senior grabs their throat, has trouble speaking, is unable to breathe and turns blue, or can only nod their head, first call 911 and then perform the Heimlich maneuver if you are trained.
Seniors can have trouble with their medications and take them incorrectly, causing poisoning. They can also unknowingly ingest something toxic.
It is a good idea to remove any dangerous chemicals from their reach and put the poison control number on the refrigerator in case it is needed quickly.
If you suspect they may have been poisoned, call poison control to get instructions before doing anything, including making your senior vomit.
Medication nonadherence will result in medical problems for senior loved ones.
In fact, not taking medications correctly results in 125,000 deaths and 11% of hospitalizations annually.
Seniors may have difficulty with medication management for a variety of reasons such as:
- Simply not remembering to take medications as prescribed at the correct time or as directed
- Skipping doses because they feel better
- May not be filling the prescriptions: 20-30% of prescriptions are never filled
- May stop taking prescriptions due to side effects or thinking that they aren’t needed; 50% of people stop their medications or treatments as directed
- Fear of side effects
- Cost of medications, co-pay
- Inability to secure transportation to pick up drugs at pharmacy
- Running out before they have another doctor visit to update prescription
- Having to split medications for correct dosage
- Lack of understanding about consequences of nonadherence or benefits of medications
- Food and/or drug interactions interfering with efficacy of medications
Proper medication management of prescriptions to treat hypertension will lead to 45% better blood pressure control.
However, in 2014, 26.3% (4.9 million) of Medicare Part D beneficiaries using blood pressure medication were nonadherent to their regimen.
Taking medications properly, including all over the counter medicines and supplements, will help your senior manage their chronic diseases and avoid potential health emergencies.
Supplies to Keep on Hand
Most of our senior’s homes have many supplies on hand from years of needing ‘cures’ but they may not have everything that you need in an emergency.
It is a good idea to take an inventory in their bathroom and fill any gaps with new supplies.
It will be very important to take the time to read the labels and expiration dates on all their products to be sure they are not too old to be used — and possibly even harmful if used. Discard any expired products and replace with newer items.
This is a good time to organize all the health products so that they are easy to find when needed.
- Keep an updated medication list including generic names, dosages, time of day, precautions and pharmacy contact number; emergency contact information is also helpful
- First aid kit – don’t forget to keep it up to date and change out any expired products
- Wound care products including bandages of all sizes, hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, antibiotic cream, gauze, tape
- Ace bandage
- Antacids for heartburn
- Pain reliever
- Constipation relief, diarrhea relief
- Ice packs
- Heating pad that is new, replace any older model which could have faulty heating controls or wiring
- Antibacterial hand cleaner
- Non-latex gloves
- Cortisone cream for itching
- Hemorrhoid cream and/or wipes, witch hazel
- Moisturizing lotion that is nourishing to protect dry, cracking skin
- Flashlight and batteries
- Sunscreen and after sun lotion
- Tweezers and scissors
- Eyewash, eye drops
- Know where to find advance directives, insurance cards and other documents if need to go to hospital
Caring Means Being Prepared
This may seem like an overwhelming amount of information needed to be prepared for an emergency but most common and on hand already.
It is important to gather all the supplies needed and have them on hand as you won’t be able to run to the store to get necessary items in the midst of the emergency.
Readiness won’t just happen but a few small steps toward preparedness will be well worth it if an emergency does arise for your senior loved one.