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As you may know, our aging elderly population is going to become an increasing percentage of your EMS calls. This is mostly related to age-related illnesses and injuries and also the big population of Baby Boomers. According to a study done in the state of North Carolina in 2007, 38% of all patients transported to emergency departments were aged 65 or older. This number is only expected to grow, and many predict that by 2030 50% of all patients transported to emergency departments will be aged 65 or older. This means that all EMS workers need to fully comprehend the specialized needs for the comfort of elderly patients.
The frailty of old age
Elderly patients are typically more fragile when compared to their younger counterparts. Age-related frailty is exhibited by decreased energy, low grip strength, reduced walking speed, unintentional weight loss and a decreasing level of physical activity. In order to properly do your job as an EMS worker, you must understand that these patients will need extra care to remain comfortable during transport because they are less resilient than some of your other patients. Blankets and pillows can become amazing tools when needed to help you provide some extra comfort to your aging patients.
There are many different types of blankets an EMS worker can use to help their elderly patients. Here is a look at the four most common medical blankets and how you can use them.
Polyester Blankets. Top quality medical one-time use polyester blankets can provide protection from cross-contamination, infections, and stains. They can help keep your elderly patients comfortable and warm. Many polyester blankets are also able to be placed in warmers (some can take temperatures as high as 150 degrees Fahrenheit) in order to keep your patient that much warmer.
Fleece Blankets. A fleece blanket is a heavier option when compared to the polyester blanket. They are also a one time use blanket. Like the polyester blankets, some of these fleece blankets can be placed in warmers with temperatures up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. These blankets provide warmness with an extra added touch of softness to help keep your elderly patients nice and comfortable.
Poly/Tissue Blankets. Poly/tissue blankets are a lightweight and single-use blankets. They are able to provide protection from the elements, such as rain, sun or wind. They are typically used to identify priority or fall risk patients, and many, not all, will come in a bright yellow color to help alert the medical staff around them.
Mylar Blankets. Mylar blankets are lightweight and compact making them easy to pack and transport. They are weather resistant and will stand up well to snow, sleet, ice or rain. They provide quick passive warming, which can be essential to any patients you have, young or old, suffering from hypothermia.
As an EMS worker, you have to be knowledgeable of all the various challenges associated with transporting any elderly patients. Prevention is the key to assisting your elderly patients in order to avoid any unnecessary accidents, such as trip and fall accidents, hypothermia and medicine dosage mistakes. However, even with all your due diligence, accidents will happen, and you must be prepared to give your elderly patients the best care possible. You will need to have an understanding of how much more care will be needed to keep them comfortable, and you will need to have the compassion to ensure all their needs and then some are met. As always, your main goal is to keep your patients comfortable and safe.