More and more people enjoying life into their 80s and 90s thanks to better health and better living standards.
However older people are one of the most high-risk groups of our population when it comes to having accidents, especially in and around the home. This is when, for older adults, immediate help can sometimes make a lifesaving difference.
There are several reasons that contribute towards this age group having more accidents:
Medical conditions and medicine
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 thinner and more easily damaged, we may develop medical conditions which affect our balance and mobility and the strength of our bones. In short, we generally become more susceptible to injury. Therefore, it is vital we recognise this and take extra steps to keep ourselves fit and healthy. Additionally, it is wise to be mindful of common avoidable hazards that frequently lead to accidental injury.
Physiology in older people
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 help
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
Staying calm is key
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 this can make things 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!
At risk group
Those over 65 years of age are most at risk. This age group suffers the highest mortality rate and the most severe injuries
Additionally, the majority of accidents in the older age groups also involve females rather than males. One in every five falls among women aged 55 and over results in a fracture or fractures requiring hospital treatment.
Many of the fatal and non-fatal accidents to older people are partly a result of frailty and failing health. Being physically more vulnerable can lead to failure or slowness to see and avoid risks.
However, by making older people and their carers aware of danger spots and habits than could cause mishaps, hopefully accidents can be reduced.
Majority of injuries
The vast majority of both fatal and non-fatal accidents involving older people are falls. Around 75% of falls among the 65-and-over age group result in arm, leg and shoulder injuries.
Further main injuries in this age group include: bruising or crushing, cuts, or wounds resulting from straining or twisting a part of the body. Here are links to further advice you can follow for some of the common medical emergencies that befall older people, from heart attacks to bleeding wounds.
First aid for Heart Attacks, Cardiac Arrest and Angina here: https://onlinefirstaid.com/heart-attacks-surviving/
First Aid for Breaks, Sprains and Dislocations: https://onlinefirstaid.com/break-sprains-and-dislocations/
First Aid for Major Bleeding: https://firstaidforlife.org.uk/help-stabbed-seriously-bleeding/
First Aid for Bumps and Bruises; https://onlinefirstaid.com/first-aid-for-bumps-and-bruises/
First Aid for Hypothermia: https://onlinefirstaid.com/hypothermia-frostbite-chilblains-help/
First Aid for Heatstroke: https://onlinefirstaid.com/stay-safe-in-the-sun-this-summer/
Fatal falls on stairs
The largest proportion of accidents are falls from stairs or steps. In fact, over 60 per cent of deaths resulting from accidents on stairs. 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). Unfortunately, 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 and confidence, contributing to many more deaths than this figure implies and a major reduction in the quality of life too.
Falls also take place from a chair or out of bed, which account for 15% of all falls whilst and a similar number are caused by a slip on the same level caused for example by tripping over a mat or a rug.
To see our advice on how best to get up from a fall click here: https://firstaidforlife.org.uk/tips-for-getting-up-from-a-fall/
Domestic danger hotspots
Location for most serious accidents involving older people: these usually happen on the stairs or in the kitchen.
Most common location for accidents: in general, these take place in the bedroom and the living room.
RoSPA advise that older people need to be made aware of:
- The importance of using the right equipment to carry out the task in hand – eg not balancing on a wobbly chair or using scissors or a knife as a screwdriver!
- Loss of balance through sudden movements, e.g. getting out of bed or a chair too quickly
- The danger of slipping and tripping created by worn rugs, slippery floors or paths, uneven surfaces, trailing flexes, and items left lying around
- Loose or badly worn footwear. Well-fitting shoes can help with balance and stability
- Grab rails and places to sit down in the bathroom and kitchen could help if someone is prone to dizzy spells
- Spills on the floor should be cleaned up immediately to prevent slipping on them.
Get free further advice and resources here:
Slips, Trips and Fractured Hips is an award-winning Amazon bestseller, 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.
Click here to buy your copy : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Slips-Trips-Fractured-Hips-prevention-ebook/dp/B079MD88ZL
Written by Emma Hammett RGN – Founder and CEO of First Aid for Life.
First Aid for Life is the leading provider of first aid training for carers, families, older people, schools, parents, child carers and health workers and our team of highly experienced medical, health and emergency services professionals will tailor the training to your needs.
It is strongly advised that you attend a First Aid course to understand what to do in a medical emergency. First Aid for Life run specific courses covering in detail how to help someone having an asthma attack.
Please visit www.firstaidforlife.org.uk, firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 0208 675 4036 for more information about our courses. 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.