Nearly 10 million adults over the age of 50 are caring for their aging parents – a number that has tripled over the past 15 years. With careers, children and grandchildren added to the mix, many baby boomers are feeling the mounting stress of caring for young, old and themselves! One way to reduce stress is to have peace of mind in knowing you’re prepared for emergency first-aid situations, such as cuts, scrapes and burns. In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, we’ve outlined some basic first-aid tips that can prepare you in case an emergency strikes, whether at home or on the go.
A properly stocked first-aid kit can ensure fast and appropriate treatment for loved ones’ minor injuries. It is important to have a first-aid kit for your home, car and a suitcase with which you regularly travel so you’re prepared no matter when or where an injury occurs. First-aid kits should be kept out-of-reach from younger children, as well as children and adults with cognitive disorders, to prevent poisoning or misuse of contents.
Although you can find pre-packaged first-aid kits at drug stores and online, many families prefer to tailor their own kits based on their family’s individual needs and preferences. According to the Mayo Clinic, a basic first-aid kit should include a mix of medical supplies – including bandages, cold packs and antiseptics – medications – such as pain relievers, cold medicines and antihistamines – and emergency items – such as medical consent/history forms, a flashlight and batteries.
Be sure to set a reminder on your calendar at mid-year and end-of-year to check your kits for low or expired medicines and supplies.
Everyone is susceptible to minor cuts and scrapes, which should be cleaned immediately to prevent infections and treated once bleeding has stopped. Antiseptic solutions containing povidone-iodine – such as Betadine(R) Solution – have been a trusted choice by hospitals for treating wounds for over four decades. Outside the hospital, Betadine products are used for first aid to help prevent infection in minor cuts, scrapes and burns. They are effective against a broad range of microbes. A range of first-aid antiseptics can be found at drug stores for caregivers to tailor to their families’ preferences and needs.
If a wound is more severe and bleeding heavily, place a clean cloth or sterile bandage over the wound and apply light pressure. As necessary and if possible, elevate the wound above the heart to further reduce heavy bleeding.
If the cut appears to be deep, won’t stop bleeding or if a fracture is expected – which is often an injury concern in the elderly – it is best to seek medical attention immediately.
Addressing burns and scalds
Children and aging adults are also at risk of scalds and burns from kitchen accidents involving hot objects and liquids. Daily preventative measures – such as placing hot objects on sturdy surfaces and setting the temperature of water heaters at a safe level – can lower the risk for external burns and scalds.
In the event of a minor burn, clothing and jewelry should be removed from around the burn site and the burn should be rinsed with cool water until pain is eased. Burns should be dressed, as needed, with a non-adhesive dressing. Aloe vera lotion or gel and over-the-counter pain relievers can help in providing relief and reducing pain. Medical attention should be sought for burns that are large and blistering, as these can bring greater risk for infection.
Understanding the signs of infection
Understanding the common signs of infection is important so wounds are properly cared for and greater health risks are kept at bay. These signs can include swelling, redness, pain and oozing from the site of the wound. You should seek medical help if any of these signs appear.
Although everyone should be mindful of the risks for infection following an injury that pierces the skin, caregivers of aging adults should be extra careful as elderly are often more susceptible to infection, especially those with concomitant illnesses.
To ensure that you are adequately prepared to care for wounds or burns at home, you may want to consider taking a first-aid training course. Organizations, like the American Red Cross, offer local and online first-aid classes to provide you with the knowledge and skills you need to be a well-equipped and effective caregiver for yourself and your loved ones. Nevertheless, seeking the advice of a medical professional should always be considered if you are uncomfortable or unsure of the correct steps to take following an emergency.