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When a Senior Faints [Caregiver Tips]

Jan 31, 2018 by Comfort Keepers of Riverside and Corona

It’s a very scary ordeal when anyone faints. If you’ve ever seen it in person or experienced it yourself, you’ll know that it’s nothing like the funny, painless falls you see in the movies. Syncope (the formal term for fainting) happens to someone whose blood flow to the brain has either reduced or stopped altogether. Something serious most likely happened for a person to suddenly lose consciousness in such a manner.

Unfortunately, those over 70 are twice as likely to faint as younger adults. As a caregiver or concerned friend or relative, what are ways you can help your senior if they faint?

Here are some tips to ensure their safety when syncope hits:

Prevent a hard fall.

If your senior mentions feeling dizzy, sit them down somewhere where if they do faint, they can fall back safely into the seat instead of from standing. If they are standing near you and you see them faint, try catching the top of the body to protect their head from slamming onto the ground or into nearby furniture.

Are they breathing?

This is the first and most important step to do after someone has fainted. Check to see if they are breathing by leaning your ear in next to their mouth and looking towards their chest. This way, you are listening for breath and looking for chest rise and fall, both of which are signs of breathing. If neither of these signs are present or you are unsure, classify them as “not breathing.”

If they are NOT breathing, perform CPR. If you aren’t CPR certified or don’t know what you are doing, think about taking a class to prepare yourself. In the moment, however, here are some quick tips for how to do CPR:

  • Find the nipple line on their chest, and place your hands one on top of the other, fingers locked (it’s easiest to put your dominant hand over your non-dominant one), in the middle of that line.
  • Using the weight of your whole body, NOT your arm muscles, push down hard and fast.
  • Don’t worry about giving mouth-to-mouth breaths if you don’t know what you are doing; for adults, compressions are the most important component of CPR.
  • Before you begin compressions, call 911 on speakerphone and speak to the dispatcher while you are pumping on their chest.

You may break ribs, but your loved one is currently dying. CPR is their best chance for survival until professional help arrives.

If they ARE breathing, position them on their back, and place their feet in an elevated position, such as on a pillow. This will help restore blood flow to the brain. If your senior is seated, either lay them back and elevate their legs, or if you can’t, bend them forward so that their head is between their knees. This position will also increase blood flow to the brain.

The following are steps for only if your loved one is breathing

Open a window.

Turn on the fan, open a window, and so forth to give them some fresh air that might help them wake up and feel less woozy when they come to.

Count how long it lasts.

If they’re unconscious for more than several minutes, this is concerning and most likely requires a call to 911.

Take your time getting them up.

When/if they do come to, have them remain lying down for a few minutes to wake up and reorient themselves a bit. Get them up slowly, first by sitting them up and letting them sit there for a minute with your support, then helping them stand and sit on the couch or a chair.

Get them some fluids.

Water is great, but fainting is very indicative of low blood sugar, so try and give them something sugary to drink, such as juice or soda (not diet soda). Gatorade is also a great choice. Have them take small sips to prevent choking.

When do I call for help?

Depending on your loved one’s situation, they may experience fainting spells and not need to go to the hospital for them. Regardless, it’s important to keep track of the details of these fainting episodes to report to their doctor the next time they are in.

If this is their first time fainting, they injured themselves falling, or you are just unsure of what to do, call 911. It does not cost anything to call and have paramedics come check out your senior; they will know better on whether your senior should go to the hospital or not. Don’t be afraid to call!

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