Should You Get a Defibrillator for an Elderly Relative?

As our loved ones get older, we naturally worry about their health and safety. One of the biggest concerns is sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). This deadly condition can strike seemingly healthy adults with little warning. Having an automated external defibrillator (AED) easily accessible at home could mean the difference between life and death if elderly family members experience SCA.

Understanding Sudden Cardiac Arrest

SCA occurs when the heart suddenly stops beating properly. This halts oxygen flow to vital organs like the brain. The longer the heart fibrillates instead of pumping normally, the lower the odds of survival become. Tragically, the mortality rate exceeds 90% for out-of-hospital cardiac arrests.

Acting rapidly is imperative. Every minute delay in restoring normal heart rhythm via defibrillation reduces chances of survival by 7-10%. Few survive if more than 10 minutes lapse before revival. Having an AED available to deliver an electric shock within 3-5 minutes from collapse can increase survival odds from around 8% to over 50-70%. Those saved by prompt AED intervention can resume normal, healthy lives.

Who Needs a Home Defibrillator?

While SCA can happen unexpectedly at any age, risk rises significantly in adults over 60. Coronary heart disease, previous heart attacks, arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation, cardiomyopathy, heart valve issues, and heart failure all predispose seniors to sudden cardiac arrest. Those with implanted pacemakers or defibrillators still require access to an external defibrillator in case their devices malfunction.

If your aging parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles have existing heart conditions, talk to their doctor about whether obtaining an AED would be prudent. Even if they are currently healthy, their advancing age and worsening cardiovascular health could make a defibrillator a sensible safeguard.

What to Look for in a Home-Use AED

Automated external defibrillators approved for home use are safe for untrained people to operate. The device provides verbal guidance each step of the way. It won’t deliver a shock unless it detects a shockable rhythm. However, not every AED offers the same reliability, durability, and buyer protections. When selecting one for home use, key factors to evaluate include:

Simplicity – Audio and visual cues should walk rescuers through use clearly. Fewer steps and minimal training requirements make the AED easier to deploy successfully.

Durability – Look for sturdy devices rated for harsh conditions (dusty attics to desert heat). IP ratings denoting water/solid ingress protection indicate durability.

Warranties – Lengthy coverage for the device itself (5+ years) and consumable parts reassures of reliability.

Budget – Ultimate value balances upfront affordability with longer-term replacement component costs. Cheaper generic devices often have shorter life cycles.

Here’s two common options for Home Defibrillators

CellAED: This compact, portable automated external defibrillator offers a very affordable starting point at around $599. Despite the lower initial cost, the CellAED still provides the core capability to accurately monitor heart rhythm and deliver a defibrillation shock if needed. For cost-conscious buyers, it represents a budget-friendly path to gain vital emergency preparedness. Note that it only has a two year lifespan

Heartsine Samaritan PAD 360P: This easy-to-operate AED costs more upfront at about $1495. However, when total eight-year ownership costs are compared to devices like the CellAED, the Heartsine 360P represents better value in the long run. Here’s why: consumable costs for pads and batteries are less frequent, with replacement needed every four years instead of two. Plus, Heartsine products are very highly regarded globally for their reliability and accuracy. There’s a reason the iconic red Heartsine bags have been trusted fixtures at airports, schools, offices and public spaces for decades – excellent lifesaving performance backed by superb customer service. The 360P is their latest lightweight, durable offering for home use.

Is Special Training Needed?

A major appeal of automated external defibrillators is that no special medical skill or prior training is required. The device provides straight-forward step-by-step voice prompts guiding the rescuer. However, reviewing the instruction manual and/or watching online training videos before an emergency arises can make a huge difference.

While formal CPR certification classes are not mandatory, taking a basic CPR course never hurts. Doing chest compressions can help restore some oxygenation until defibrillation can occur. Just be sure not to interrupt CPR for more than 10 seconds if the AED is still analyzing or charging.

Using an AED in 6 Simple Steps

Here is a brief overview of how to use any automated external defibrillator to help restart someone’s heart. Always follow device-specific guidance from the AED itself and user manual over these general instructions if variations exist.

Assess casualty safety – Ensure the person is unresponsive/unconscious and not breathing normally before touching them. Clear any obvious hazards like standing water if possible first.

Turn on AED – Press the “On” button and wait for the device to guide you through each step with prompts. FOLLOW THESE PROMPTS.

Expose chest – Remove any clothing on their upper body to expose bare skin for pad placement. Dry skin if wet.

Attach pads – Peel pads from liner one at a time when instructed and firmly adhere to precise locations on chest denoted in graphics/diagrams.

Clear for analysis – Ensure no one is touching patient so the AED can accurately analyze heart rhythm.

Deliver shock* – If the AED determines a shock is required, it will say “Shock advised” or similar. Strictly follow prompts before pressing flashing shock button.

Important Reminders:

Do NOT touch patient while AED analyzing or shocking

Minimize pauses in CPR; resume compressions immediately after shock

Keep AED attached until the ambos arrive; it will reanalyze heart rhythm automatically and can shock again if they go into cardiac arrest again.

Following device voice prompts to attach pads, clear patient, and enable shock takes courage but ANYONE can learn to use an AED properly with basic preparation. Taking two minutes now to boost your confidence with the above steps or virtual tutorials could equip you to save a loved one’s life later.

The Takeaway

Hopefully an emergency situation never arises with your aging family members. But having an automatic external defibrillator within easy reach offers peace of mind that life-saving defibrillation is possible if needed to revive a loved one. Compare different AEDs using the criteria above and consult doctors to decide if home preparedness could be worthwhile for your circumstances. Staying informed on sudden cardiac arrest risks and preparedness options empowers you to make the best decision for your family’s health and safety.

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