At the beginning of the year, many people make New Year’s resolutions aimed at self-improvement or helping others. A common promise involves offering more time, resources and energy to volunteer causes – some long-term commitments, others, one-time events. If you’re looking for ways to get involved, January is – conveniently – National Blood Donor Month. People in senior living, as well as younger community members, are invited to donate this life-saving resource and make a real difference in another person’s life.
Why donate blood?
Although donations are always welcome, the Association of Donor Recruitment Professionals reported that blood centers often face particular shortages during winter due to holidays, high-risk weather conditions and illness. Furthermore, the American Red Cross published statistics indicating that someone in the nation is in need of blood every two seconds, and total annual transfusion reaches around 30 million units of blood.
According to the source, hospitals and other facilities in the U.S. alone have a demand of approximately 40,000 units of blood per day. For reference, a single person injured in a car accident can require up to 100 pints of blood. This valuable resource comes from individuals whose donations are the sole method of bolstering the bank, as blood cannot be synthetically manufactured.
Who can donate?
In order to donate blood, people must meet certain requirements that ensure both their own safety and the well-being of the recipients. Donors must be at least 17 years of age, except in some states where 16-year-olds can participate with the consent of a parent or guardian. Additionally, people desiring to donate must weigh at least 110 pounds and have a high enough blood iron content to decrease the likelihood that they will develop anemia, or low blood iron. Individuals can contribute whole blood every 56 days. Certain other restrictions apply for people who want to donate platelets, plasma and double red cells.
According to the National Institutes of Health, many people over the age of 65 decide to stop donating because they feel that it could affect their overall health. However, this may be a myth. In a recent study, the NIH compared the effects of blood donation from healthy 65-year-olds with those of people 10 years their junior. Results proved that age is not a determining factor in whether a person is eligible to donate.
“It is both clinically feasible and efficient to recruit healthy prior donors older than the age of 66 years,” published the NIH. “As a group, this population is potentially able to donate large volumes of blood and do so without any difference in immediate or short-term reactions.”
What is the donation process?
If you’re planning to donate blood, you might benefit from following some of these tips from the American Red Cross. The source recommends drinking plenty of water and nonalcoholic fluids in the days preceding the donation, and maintaining a healthy diet that is high in iron, red meat, fish, cereals, fruits and vegetables, and low in fat. The night before donating, be sure to get enough sleep – for most adults, eight hours is recommended.
On donation day, wear comfortable clothing with loose sleeves that can be rolled above the elbow. The medical technician will guide you through the donation process, which typically includes a finger prick to determine your blood iron levels and a questionnaire to ensure your eligibility. For the duration of the donation, you may choose to listen to music or talk with other participants. Afterward, replenish with complimentary drinks and snacks during a brief relaxation period. Congratulations – you’ve donated blood!