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Develop Your Skills To Care For The Elderly

Caring for an elderly person is a bit like caring for a child. Sadly, the more confused an elderly person gets, the more childlike their behaviour becomes. (The obvious attribute that is missing is the energy of youth of course!) Therefore, it's not surprising that many of the skills required to look after elderly people match the skills required to look after children.


Children then to sleep a lot, and the same is true of elderly people. As people get older, they need less sleep at night, but tend to cat nap more during the day. Cat napping is common in elderly people, and as a carer, you need to respect this need.


Children are often finicky eaters and many do not eat very much at all. Some require special diets. The same is true of elderly people. Many eat very small amounts of food and those who have a condition such as diabetes have to have special diets to help regulate their blood sugar levels. As a carer, you need to be aware of any dietary needs and prepare appropriate meals for the person in your care.

Administering medication

As carer of an elderly person, it is often your responsibility to make sure that medications are taken in the right quanties at the right time.

Dealing with injuries

As elderly people become more infirm, so the risk of injuries increases. Cuts, scrapes and bruises are a common amongst elderly in care. Quite often the elderly person might not know that they have happened and the risk is that they can become infected.

Basic wound care

All wounds, no matter how small, should be cleaned and disinfected as soon as they occur. If they are large, the wound should be dressed as well, especially if still bleeding. It's important to remember that in elderly people, the skin does not have the powers of regeneration found in younger people, and a wound can remain open and liable for infection for many weeks or even months. So if you know that the elderly person in your care has sustained an injury, it is important to keep an eye on it. If in doubt, consult a medical practitioner.

First aid courses

If you find yourself caring of an elderly person, it is very important that you enroll on a basic first aid course as soon as possible. You local medical centre or adult education college are a good starting point. The Red Cross also run courses. You may find some of the content of these first aid courses basic common sense, but some of it will be new to you plus you will be updated on the latest trends in first aid. Also, having a tutor explain things will help you remember what to do in an emergency. Even if you have been on a first aide course in the last couple of years, it's always worth doing a refresher course and you may find a course that is directly relevant to your role as carer.

Immunization injections - tetanus

Another aspect of wound care is prevention. It's important to make sure the person in your care is up to date with any basic immunization injections. Tetanus is probably the most important. Tetanus is an infectious, often-fatal disease caused caused by a toxin (poison) produced by spores of the bacterium Clostridium tetani. The spores are extremely hardy and can be found everywhere but especially in soil, dust, or animal waste. Tetanus affects the nervous system and causes painful, uncontrolled muscle spasms. It is sometimes known as lock jaw.

Tetanus spores can enter the body through the tiniest of wounds such as a pinprick or scratch, but more usually they enter through deep puncture wounds or cuts, like those made by nails or knives. Tetanus can also get into the body via burn wounds - something elderly people are susceptible too. Once in the body, the spores produce a powerful nerve poison that spreads through the body and causes painful and distressing symptoms such as headache and spasms or cramping of the jaw muscles (hence the common name lockjaw). If not treated, the poison spreads, and attacks more groups of muscles, causing spasms in the neck, arms, legs, and stomach. In the later stages, the pos ion can cause violent convulsions known as seizures. Tetanus can be fatal.


Any caregiver should attend a basic first aid course very early on in their role. Community colleges often provide basic first aid courses that cover all of the information that you need to know about administering it at a moment's notice in any situation. Some of the content of these courses is common sense, but if an instructor stresses it to you, you are more likely to remember it when you are called upon. It never hurts to refresh information that you have learnt previously either. Even if you have been on a course in the last couple of years, you should look into taking another one that is more specific for your new role. Any course will include wound care as a basic requirement.

Another important element of wound care is ensuring that the elderly individual in your care is completely up to date with any necessary shots. Tetanus is especially important because it is perhaps the easiest serious infection to contract. The bug only needs a small open wound to spread through the body via the bloodstream. This fact also serves to reinforce the point that infection control through wound care cannot be underestimated and dismissed as an unimportant concern.

Wound care is easy enough to learn for any caregiver and there is very little practice required in order for you to get it right. It therefore demands little of you time by can pay dividends when you look at how devastating any number of infections and bugs can be.

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