Accidents and injuries occur every day. It is a part of life and it is something that is often out of our control. What we can control, however, is how we deal with medical emergencies when they do happen. When the unexpected event does arise, it is a good idea to remember a simple phrase: Stop-Think-Act. It only takes a few seconds, but those few seconds could save a life – even your own.
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Stop – Don’t rush into a situation. Stop where you are and assess or observe the scene.
Think – If you risk your safety and put yourself into harm’s way, you won’t be doing anyone any good. Form an action plan that considers your safety as well as that of the injured parties.
Act – Call for help by calling 911 and alerting EMS or other needed emergency personnel. Proceed with assisting those in need.
Knowing the basics of first aid is the next step in being prepared for anything until the ambulance gets there. All members of the group, from the youngest to the oldest, should have a grasp of what they can safely do until the paramedics or other help arrives. Here are 5 first aid skills ever senior should know and get proper training for.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is one of the most important life-saving skills a person can learn. CPR is used to treat a patient who is in cardiac arrest. When in cardiac arrest, the person’s heart stops beating and the blood is no longer being pumped to the brain and extremities. Damage and death can occur if the heart is not restarted or kept pumping until help arrives.
CPR is comprised of two components: rescue breathing and chest compressions. There is some debate currently regarding the necessity of rescue breathing and the timing of the chest compressions. It is important to acknowledge that chest compressions can injure the patient, especially older people who have bones that may be more brittle. Due to the changing recommendations, it is advisable to seek training and certification from a professional before administering CPR.
The Heimlich maneuver is a common method to help a choking patient. Before starting the maneuver, ask the person to nod if they are indeed choking on a foreign object – they may not be able to verbalize it, so ask for that nod.
Once it is determined they are choking, position yourself behind the patient. Wrap your arms around them, placing your fist between their belly button and their ribcage with your other hand wrapped around your fist. Deliver a quick, sharp thrust upward and continue doing so until the foreign object is dislodged and the patient can breathe. Keep in mind that this is for adult patients only. Children and kids need different methods because of their sizes.
When a person goes into shock, their brain isn’t getting enough oxygen to function. The patient will appear pale and may act disoriented. They may say they are feeling dizzy and/or faint. Shock can occur for many reasons: an accident, illness, loss of blood and body fluids, an infection, or even an allergic reaction.
When symptoms of shock are presenting themselves, have the patient lie down on their back with their feet elevated on a pillow or cushion. Don’t allow them anything to drink as choking can occur as they become more disoriented. If they appear to be choking or they have blood or fluid coming out of their mouth, immediately roll them over onto one side. Keeping them warm is crucial, covering them with a blanket can help until emergency personnel arrives.
A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. Even though it is usually thought of as an older adult’s issue, age is not the determining factor. It is something that even an infant can go through as a stroke is when a blockage or small blood clot occurs in a blood vessel going to the brain. Seconds count when the brain is being deprived of blood carrying critical oxygen.
Giving the patient an aspirin while waiting for EMS may help open the blood vessels and veins to allow some oxygen to get through. Before doing this, be sure they aren’t allergic to aspirin or that it won’t have an interaction with medicines they are on.
Symptoms of a stroke can appear instantly or come on gradually. They may include:
- difficulty seeing out of one or both eyes
- disorientation and/or dizziness
- one side of the body drooping
- sudden numbness
- walking difficulties
You can determine if a person is experiencing a stroke by asking them to smile and noting if one side of their mouth is drooping. Another technique is the have them raise both arms together and see if one side is lower than the other or they are uneven.
When a person is cut or bleeding heavily, it is critical to stop the bleeding. Problems with blood clotting are common with older patients and those on blood thinning medicines. Even a small cut can become life-threatening if the bleeding can’t be stopped.
Have the patient raise the wounded limb above their heart to help slow the blood pressure to the affected area. For legs, have them lie down and place the injured leg on a cushion. Using a sterile bandage, clean cloths, or whatever you have available, put pressure directly on the wound.
Keep applying pressure until the bleeding completely stops and until help arrives. If the material you are using becomes soaked, don’t remove it. Just add more cloths or bandages over the top of the originals while maintaining pressure on the wound. Never remove the pressure as it could reopen the wound or increase the pressure of the blood flow to the area.
Knowing how to help someone (or even yourself) in an emergency situation is a skill that will never go to waste. Take a CPR or first aid class to learn the basics from a trained professional. Training is available in almost every community in the country, often for free. When you are faced with an emergency, just remember to keep yourself safe and out of harm’s way while helping others.
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