As we age, our skin starts to lose the ability to regenerate itself. If seniors get wounded, it usually takes a much longer time to heal, sometimes even months. That’s why prompt and proper wound care for the elderly is critical. If wound management isn’t prioritised, then further complications can arise.
What are chronic wounds in the elderly?
Wounds that heal very slowly, don’t heal at all, or reoccur often are known as chronic wounds. These wounds need special care, and are often caused by:
- Underlying health conditions such as diabetes and vascular diseases
- Repeated trauma to wound site
- Limited mobility which restricts blood flow to the area
- Incisions during surgery
Chronic wounds usually appear on the feet and lower legs and can be a great strain on the patient as they create a very high risk of infection. This happens because they don’t heal fast enough, giving bacteria time to grow.
What are the complications of a wound?
Not only does a wound create problems for the patient’s skin cells, it also rubs away the skin’s natural protective layer, which causes itching and irritation on the wound. The first seven days after injury are critical for a successful wound healing process. If you don’t take these matters seriously, you may end up with an infection that creates complications such as peritonitis and cellulitis and further delay in healing.
Osteomyelitis, which is a bone infection caused by bacteria, is another complication that can result from wounds that aren’t treated properly. These infections can be very dangerous and potentially life-threatening. In elderly patients, they may take longer to heal because of loss of immune function. If the infection isn’t corrected, then it will spread into the bloodstream through the blood vessels and cause sepsis with its associated symptoms. These symptoms include low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, fever and chills, confusion, and nausea.
Wound management for the elderly
Chronic wounds in the elderly require special care and monitoring, which should be looked after by a professional caregiver. If there’s any sort of wound, it is important to treat it as soon as possible. All affected areas should be cleaned regularly and properly to reduce the risk of further complications. You should also avoid scratching or rubbing these areas because they may worsen due to an increased exposure to germs.
Whilst wound care should be taken care of by a professional, there are a few things that you can do to help prevent them from occurring. These include:
- Eliminating trip hazards around the house
- Removing dressings gently
- Moisturising daily to avoid skin tears
- Eating a healthy diet
Chronic wounds pose a variety of threats to the elderly, so it’s important to fully understand the risks and how to care for them to avoid any further complications.