By Gordon Williams, American Red Cross Volunteer

Photo credit: American Red Cross © Stock photo taken for the American Red Cross.

Accidents happen – burns from a kitchen fire, a broken limb from a fall, heat exhaustion on a sweltering day. You can prepare for these inevitable mishaps by learning first aid from the American Red Cross and by outfitting your home with the tools needed to treat a medical emergency.

Megan Elliott, Washington state account manager for Red Cross training services, says that classes are readily available in first aid, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillation (AED). “Go to,” she says. “You can opt for in-person instruction, or “blended” courses, taught primarily online.

When you complete the course, you gain certification in being able to handle medical emergencies. In a face-to-face course, you would be in the classroom with the instructor, who would then certify your skills. In a blended class, you would study online and then get certified in a face-to-face session with the instructor.

“Most people prefer the blended approach,” says Elliott. “But you can find in-person classes in your area.” Elliott says a Red Cross first aid course would take about three hours and cost between $50 and $70.

Once trained, you can use your skills to help yourself if you are the victim, or help if someone you are caring for is the victim. As the Red Cross puts it, “The life you save with CPR is most likely to be someone you love.”

And the Red Cross offers more than just first aid training. Elliott points to the Red Cross first aid application for smart phones, available at no charge at the Apple App store and Google play. Once you have downloaded and installed the app, it will provide what-to-do information about how to treat almost any medical emergency. “It can help in an emergency whether it is a heart attack, an allergic reaction or a broken bone,” Elliott says

Every home should have the first aid basics needed to treat most emergencies. Here are the essentials:

  • thermometer
  • cold package for breaks and bruises
  • thermal patches to apply heat to a bruise
  • gauze in both pads and rolls
  • cotton balls and swabs
  • elastic bandage
  • tweezers, safety pins and needles
  • disposable gloves (non latex in case someone is allergic)
  • hand sanitizer and soap
  • sterile eyewash
  • emergency phone numbers of doctors pharmacy, poison control and emergency services
  • list of all medications you or someone you care for is taking, along with dosage and when the medication is to be taken,
  • burn treatment products
  • muscle relief products
  • topical antibiotics and antiseptics

You would want those items on hand, no matter what the ages of those in your household. You will want to add some items to the list if you are older–or care for someone older. Senior first aid needs are different from the needs of someone younger.

Older people are more likely to fall or otherwise injure themselves than someone younger, And seniors are more likely to have underlying medical issues that can flare up. First aid training is useful for everyone but especially so if you are older or caring for someone older. One useful approach would be for care-giver and care recipient to both sign up for a Red Cross first aid course. Build out your home first aid kit with items you might need in treating someone older.,

Someone younger with a serious cut would almost certainly receive stitches, Elliott says. But delicate senior skin might not be able to tolerate stitches. Instead, she says, a senior first aid kit would include butterfly closures that would hold the edges of a wound together. That would keep the wound closed until someone with professional medical training takes over the treatment.

Skin tears are common in folks with very thin skin…and even butterfly closures may be too much for fragile older skin. Consider adding paper tape and transparent film dressings to your senior first aid kit. Transparent film looks like plastic wrap and provides a way to let skin tears heal. Because the medical tape is transparent, it is easy to keep watch to make sure the wound is healing.

Another useful item in a senior first aid kit is a pair of scissors–needed to cut off clothing in a medical emergency. “With cardiac arrest, you need to get everything off their chest,” Elliott says. “A woman can’t be fully examined if she is wearing a bra. If there is bleeding you need to see the wound to treat it. It is usually easier to cut off clothing than to try to pull it off.”

Be prepared to act when emergencies arise with First Aid courses from the American Red Cross. Tap here to find a class near you.

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