Senior citizens need more education in CPR and operating defibrillators, a Mayo Clinic doctor’s study revealed.
“We need to do more and (provide) better education for seniors,” said Ben Bobrow, an emergency room physician. “If you want to protect people living in a senior living community, you need to have a system of trained responders.”
Many seniors were unable to correctly use defibrillators — devices that jolt a heart back into a normal rhythm — or perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation correctly during the study at a community for active seniors.
Of 51 residents at Gilbert’s Trilogy at Power Ranch, 29 percent were not strong enough to provide adequate chest compressions of 1.5 to 2 inches for CPR, and 39 percent were not able to properly attach electrodes for the shock from a defibrillator. Only 60 percent knew to continue CPR after shocking the patient, Bobrow said.
The average age of those in the study was 64. Nearly half had training for the emergency procedures in the last six months, 31 percent had training at an earlier time, and 22 percent had no previous training.
Bobrow is also the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services bureau of Emergency Medical Services.
His Save Hearts in Arizona Registry and Education program is educating police and emergency workers statewide on new research on how to perform CPR.
The program just completed videos and posters to be distributed statewide in an effort to teach residents that CPR and defibrillators can mean saving a life. Local Channel 11 stations are scheduled to broadcast the video during Heart Month in February.
Most often people don’t even attempt CPR on cardiac arrest victims. Cardiac arrest victims only survive about 5 percent of the time, in part because of the lack of help, he said.
Recent American Heart Association research should make it easier. Revised CPR guidelines say that what a victim really needs is constant, fast and strong chest compressions until an ambulance arrives, not mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
“What the studies show is rapid intervention with an electronic defibrillator has made the difference,” said Gene Zehring, Gilbert Fire Department’s emergency medical services coordinator.
“Almost anybody can use a (defibrillator) without any prior experience or knowledge.”
Since 2003, Zehring has been directing the installation of defibrillators in all 13 town buildings and encouraging area businesses to purchase the equipment.
The Save Hearts program has also been establishing a registry of where defibrillators are located in Arizona, and will share the information with 911 operators who can direct callers to use the equipment.
For information or for a video or poster, visit www.azshare.gov or call (602) 364-3154.