Frank is a nursing assistant in a long-term care facility and on a quiet shift, he responded to a call light from an elderly resident who complained of feeling dizzy and nauseous. Frank looked at her carefully and noticed she had cool, clammy skin, and the color was pale. She also had rapid breathing and a weak pulse. The resident was displaying many of the symptoms of shock.
While in medical training, Frank learned that shock is a medical emergency. When a person is in shock, the vital organs and tissues are not receiving enough blood. The lack of blood flow means there is a lack of oxygen getting to the organs and tissues, which can cause them to begin shutting down. Waste products may also build up. Shock can be a life-threatening medical emergency that must be treated to avoid serious damage to vital organs and tissues. Shock may also cause death.
There are many reasons why a person may go into shock, but for elderly residents in a long-term care facility, some of the reasons are due to sepsis or heart problems. Septic shock usually comes from infections, and symptoms can include shaking, chills, and a rapid temperature increase. Shock related to heart problems can include symptoms of lung congestion and enlarged neck veins.
Frank followed the protocol for the long-term care facility. He called for the nurse on staff and then made sure to keep the resident comfortable. He put the resident in a supine position with a pillow under her head, elevated her feet about 12 inches with a pillow, and covered her with a blanket to make sure she was warm. He continued to take vital signs to monitor the situation. Frank was prepared to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if the resident stopped breathing and her heart stopped.
The nurse on staff arrived shortly after Frank rang the call light. She took over and continued to treat the resident for shock. The nurse thanked Frank for his careful attention to the resident’s symptoms and to the protocols for caring for residents in shock.