What Seniors Should Keep in Their First Aid Kits

Elderly victims have unique problems that get in the way of treating their bumps and bruises, particularly because of delicate skin and brittle bones. Building a first aid kit for the elderly requires different supplies than you would typically get in an all-purpose first aid kit.

Currently, there aren't any specialty first aid kits for seniors, so you'll have to build this one yourself or at least add these items to a commercially available first aid kit.



Medical Supplies, Bandage Sheers
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Scissors are a good thing to have in any first aid kit, but a pair of shears is especially necessary for a kit built for the elderly. With brittle bones and delicate skin, the only way to remove clothing over an injury might be to cut it off. First aid scissors are tough enough to cut thick clothing — even denim — but have a blunt side to make sure you don't cut the skin. Unfortunately, they only come in right-handed versions (at least we've never found a pair of left-handed first aid shears).


Butterfly Closures

Butterfly closures are used to hold the edges of small cuts together. It allows them to heal straight and with little scarring. Butterfly closures aren't as good as stitches for most cuts, but some seniors have thin skin that won't tolerate stitches. For those folks, butterfly closures are the way to go.


Self-Adherent Bandages

Close-up of a bandage
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Self-adherent bandages are not gauze — they don't have any absorbent qualities to soak up blood or other body fluids. What they do is stick to themselves only. These bandages are great for folks with delicate skin, but only when the wound is in an area where you can wrap the bandage all the way around (like an arm or a leg). These bandages can also be used for compression similar to elastic bandages and have the added advantage of not needing clips or safety pins to hold them on.


Transparent Film Dressing

3M Tegaderm Transparent Film Dressing

Photo from Amazon

Skin tears are common in folks with very thin skin and the tape is generally too harsh to hold the edges together. Even butterfly closures are too much for some skin types. Transparent film dressings look like plastic wrap (but aren't, so don't try to use plastic wrap) and provide a way to let skin tears heal. Film dressings hold the edges together by gently sticking to more surface area than a standard adhesive bandage or tape and have the added bonus of being nearly invisible, making it easy to see how healing is coming along.


Paper Tape

Paper Tape

Photo from Amazon

Tape has all kinds of uses in first aid, but some tape is just too irritating for those with delicate skin. Paper tape isn't as strong as other types but is much less irritating.


Roller Gauze

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Fotosearch / Getty Images

Roller gauze is useful for those scrapes and tears that won't be closed with a butterfly, but need to be covered. The only thing less irritating than paper tape is rolled gauze. You can wrap it lightly around an arm or leg to provide coverage without sticking to the skin.


Nonstick Gauze

Curad Non-Stick Pads

Photo from Amazon

Nonstick gauze pads are another option to provide protection for delicate skin. These aren't as good as film dressings in my opinion, but they are often easier to find at the local drug store. The most well-known product is the Telfa Pad, but there are others available. Despite being billed as "nonstick" I have had these get stuck, especially on wounds that ooze a bit of blood under them.

1 Source
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  1. Holmes RF, Davidson MW, Thompson BJ, Kelechi TJ. Skin tears: care and management of the older adult at home. Home Healthc Nurse. 2013;31(2):90-101. doi:10.1097/NHH.0b013e31827f458a

By Rod Brouhard, EMT-P
Rod Brouhard is an emergency medical technician paramedic (EMT-P), journalist, educator, and advocate for emergency medical service providers and patients.