People 70 years and older are twice as likely to experience fainting episodes compared to younger adults. Syncope, another word for fainting, occurs when the blood flow to a person's brain is reduced or stopped.
According to the National 911 Office, you should call 911 if an elder who has lost consciousness. Seek immediate medical attention, particularly if the senior has heart problems, is prone to fainting episodes, or if they have lost consciousness and fallen down as a result of fainting.
There are also a few things you can do on your own to help ensure the safety of a senior who has passed out:
- Keep them from falling: Whenever possible, try and keep a senior who is fainting from falling. If your loved one says they're feeling faint, protect their head and attempt to maneuver them as best you can towards a couch or chair.
- Get them in the right position: According to the Mayo Clinic, someone who has fainted and is still breathing should be placed on their back, with their feet situated about one foot above their heart level whenever possible. This will serve to reestablish and facilitate blood flow to your loved one's brain. If your loved one is seated, and you can't safely move them, try to place their head in between their knees so that it's easier for their heart to pump blood to their brain.
- Inspect airway, possibly begin CPR: Ensure that the senior's airway is clear of vomit and excessive saliva. If they have stopped breathing, someone who knows how to safely administer CPR, should do so.
- Give them some air: If a senior is safely positioned and breathing, crack a window, open a door, or turn on a fan to help ventilate the room. Also, untie or loosen clothing that is in any way constricting. This will help keep blood flowing throughout you loved one's body.
- Keep an eye on the clock: Fainting spells that last for more than a minute or two are unusual, and can be a sign of a more serious medical problem. You should definitely contact emergency services if a senior remains unconscious for longer than a few minutes.
- Help them get up slowly: When a loved one comes to, don't let them get up right away. When they do feel well enough to sit up, encourage them to do so slowly, and be sure to provide physical support, in case they feel faint again. Don't let someone who has fainted try to walk until they have been conscious for at least fifteen minutes.
- Encourage fluids: A fully conscious senior should be encouraged to drink fluids. Plain water is fine, but, when people faint, their blood sugar generally drops, so if you can give the senior a beverage that contains sugar, it might help regulate their blood sugar. Encourage your loved one to take tiny sips to help prevent them from choking.
Fainting can be caused be a variety of things; from certain prescription medications, to standing up too fast. If your loved one is experiencing fainting episodes, it could be a sign of a more serious medical issue. Talk with their doctor about possible causes and remedies for the situation.