As we get older our physiology changes and we often develop additional medical conditions. These conditions and the medicine taken to manage them can alter the way our bodies react to injury. Understanding this is key to managing a first aid emergency in an older person and anticipating how they might react to the injuries you can see. Staying one step ahead in an emergency situation often proves vital to the recovery of the casualty.
As we age, we also become more accident prone. Our eyesight deteriorates, our skin becomes more friable, we may develop medical conditions which affect our balance and mobility and generally we become more susceptible to injury. It is vital that we recognise this and take extra steps to keep ourselves fit and healthy and are mindful of common avoidable hazards that frequently lead to accidental injury.
More than 4,500 people in England over the age of 65 were recorded as having died as a result of a fall in 2015 (RoSPA).
This is likely to be the tip of the iceberg, as falls, although not necessarily the cause of death, can result in significant decline in health, contributing to many more deaths than this figure implies. See our advice on how best to get up from a fall.
Older people can suffer serious injuries from falls, bleeds and burns that would be superficial in a younger person. They may not respond to a medical emergency in the usual way and can deteriorate extremely quickly. It is important to recognise and understand that the physiology in older people is different, and that medication may affect this too.
First aid gives us the confidence to:
- Identify common hazards and take precautions to prevent possible injuries
- Understand how ageing affects the body and the effects of common prescription medication and illnesses on the response to trauma
- Calmly approach any injury or medical emergency
- Assess the severity of the situation
- Quickly prioritise and identify whether there are any life-threatening injuries
- Reassure the casualty and treat the most urgent issues
- Seek medical advice or call an ambulance if necessary
The most important advice of all is to stay calm, having first aid knowledge prior to an emergency should give you confidence and understanding to cope. If you are panicking the casualty will pick up on it, and things will only get worse. Stress and panic will exacerbate symptoms of shock, can make breathing problems worse and mean it’s harder to help. Nothing is more contagious than panic!
First Aid for Life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information. It is strongly advised that you attend a first aid course or do one online to understand what to do in a medical emergency.
Introducing a comprehensive guide to accident prevention and treatment in the older generation; Slips, Trips and Fractured Hips by Emma Hammett RGN. This book has been written for people caring for older friends and relatives; children caring for elderly parents, for spouses, for older people wanting to keep themselves that bit safer and for anyone working with or caring for older people. It is designed to help you take measures to prevent life-threatening injuries and help you plan, prepare and avoid mishap, as well as equip you with the necessary skills should an accident occur.