A new offering for your activity calendar?

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Lois A. Bowers
Lois A. Bowers

Results of two new studies may have you considering adding a new offering to you activity calendar: CPR training.

Knowledge of CPR is low, especially among older adults, despite the fact that it increases the chance of survival after sudden cardiac arrest, according to the separate studies, presented Saturday during the Resuscitation Science Symposium at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2016 in New Orleans.

In a U.S. telephone survey of 9,022 respondents aged 18 or more years, conducted by University of Pennsylvania researchers, those aged 50 or more years were 50% less likely to be CPR-trained compared with those age 49 or younger. In fact, researchers found a steep drop in the likelihood of having CPR training after age 50.

“We uncovered that those who are most at risk for [out-of-hospital] sudden cardiac arrest are the least likely to be trained to act in an emergency situation,” said the study's senior author, Benjamin Abella, M.D., MPhil, director of Penn's Center for Resuscitation Science and an associate professor of emergency medicine. “While some of these older adults may have been CPR-trained at some point in their lives — likely when they were much younger — when bystander CPR can be the difference between someone living or dying, these seniors may not be comfortable employing their dated CPR skills.”

The researchers call for bringing CPR training to older adults at senior living communities, senior centers and workplaces, to give those who experience sudden cardiac arrest a better chance of surviving. Although it may seem appealing, especially, perhaps, for independent living communities, it would be very wise to review your current policies and check with your legal and other advisers before making any changes.

In the other study presented at the meeting, researchers from Denmark analyzed 99 questionnaires completed by adults aged more than 65 years old and found that they were reluctant to perform CPR. The biggest barriers, investigators found, were lack of knowledge and a fear of doing harm to the person under cardiac arrest.

If they witnessed a cardiac arrest:

  • 85% of respondents said they would be willing to call emergency medical services;
  • 35% would provide rescue breaths;
  • 36% would give chest compressions;
  • 35% would use an automated external defibrillator; and
  • only 15% said that they would be willing to do all of the above.

“We do believe there needs to be a special focus on the elderly,” said Lise Qvirin Krogh, M.D., lead study author and research fellow at Aarhus University Hospital's Research Center for Emergency Medicine in Denmark. “Calling the EMS is a very big step in the right direction, but they can help the victim much more by also starting CPR.”

The study sample was small, and the data were collected from members of leisure clubs, who may be more active than the general elderly population, Krogh said. But the research is a start to identifying areas to improve the quality of bystander delivery of CPR among elderly, she added.

“It was surprising that among these respondents, it was only about 35% who would actually start CPR,” Krogh said. “The willingness to perform CPR is very dependent on the knowledge about CPR. With this study, we can get closer to strategies to increase the knowledge about CPR and focus CPR training among the elderly.”

The American Heart Association has posted information about CPR training on its website.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight's Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers.

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