First aid for aging bodies

By Carol Higgins Taylor, Special to the BDN
Posted Aug. 01, 2013, at 1:23 p.m.

Have you checked out your medicine cabinet lately?

It’s a good idea to do so regularly, because some of the contents may be past the point of usefulness or some necessary items may be missing. It is disheartening to cut a finger only to discover the disinfectant ointment expired last year and you’re out of Band-Aids.

A well-stocked first aid kit is the safest proposition. The new and improved kits pretty much have a treatment for every ailment, not just your basic aspirin-and-bandages combo of years past.

While everyone should have a working knowledge of first aid, seniors need to be especially vigilant because aging bodies start slowing down, have decreased skin integrity, and may have the complication of failing eyesight, lessening agility and memory loss.

For instance, poisoning can be a problem for seniors who have taken their medications twice or taken a spouse’s pills. The Northern New England Poison Center, 800-222-1222, can instruct seniors on the best course of action.

Burns can be especially dangerous for the elderly because of an old wives’ tale that recommends treating them with butter. My grandmother swore by this treatment not realizing how risky it is. Butter actually seals in the heat and can make a burn much worse. Instead of butter, use cool water and never break blisters as they keep the burned tissue clean and free from infection. If the burn is large, appears deep, and skin layers are destroyed, call an ambulance immediately.

Choking is a concern as well because the functionality of an aging digestive system has slowed. To compensate, cut up food, especially meat products, into small pieces and make sure dentures are secure. Eat slowly and chew each bite thoroughly before swallowing.

Finally, learn the Heimlich maneuver. Seniors living alone can Heimlich themselves by leaning over the back of a chair or the corner of a table. Ask a health care provider to demonstrate the proper technique lest you inadvertently hurt yourself.

Learning some first aid, using common sense, and calling an ambulance when you need help are good ways to stay well.

Carol Higgins Taylor is director of communications at Eastern Area Agency on Aging.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/08/01/health/blogs-and-columns/first-aid-for-aging-bodies/ printed on October 2, 2014