Caring for Chronic Wounds in the Elderly
Whether seniors are living independently or in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, the importance of taking proper care of wounds cannot be overemphasized. Any wound should be kept clean and watched closely to ensure proper healing. However, there is a big difference between a simple scrape and a more serious chronic wound.
Put simply, chronic wounds are wounds that just won’t heal. Though anyone can experience them, they are found most often in the elderly. If a wound takes longer to heal than would commonly be expected (typically about 2-3 months), it is considered chronic. If you or someone you love has been affected by a chronic wound, you may want to know more about the types of chronic wounds and the treatments available.
Types of Chronic Wounds
Chronic wounds can be the result of a fungal, bacterial, or viral infection. They may also be caused by radiation poisoning, or even surgical incisions that don’t heal properly. However, in elderly patients the most common types of chronic wounds are ulcers.
- Diabetic ulcers. In some people, diabetes causes numbness, especially in the lower extremities. This may mean that an injury could go unnoticed and lead to complications. Add the fact that diabetes also affects the body’s immune response (lessening its ability to fight infection and promote healing) and you have the perfect combination of factors for developing a chronic wound.
- Pressure ulcers. Also known as bedsores, pressure ulcers are caused when an area of the body experiences constant pressure. They occur most often in more bony areas like the tailbone, heels, and ankles. Pressure ulcers are most common in people who are bedridden or who have limited mobility.
- Arterial and venous ulcers. Arterial ulcers occur when blood flow to a certain area is blocked, making it difficult for wounds to heal. Venous ulcers, which account for the majority of chronic wounds in elderly patients, are caused by defective valves in the veins which cause blood to pool in certain areas of the body. This results in poor circulation and chronic inflammation.
Treatment for Chronic Wounds
Chronic wounds should be treated by a qualified medical professional. At times, treatment may even involve time spent in a hospital or other care facility. Some common treatments for chronic wounds include:
- Determining and treating the underlying cause of the wound.
- Regular cleaning of the wound and removal of dead tissue.
- Wound Vacs. These are vacuum assisted wound dressings which apply negative pressure to the wound to encourage healing.
- Warming the wounded area to increase blood flow.
- Use of antibiotics.
- Use of anti-inflammatory medications.
- Oxygen therapy. Chronic wound tissue frequently has low oxygen levels. Oxygen therapy is designed to increase the oxygen supply to wounds that are not responding to other therapies and has been found helpful in some types of wounds.
- Specialized dressings that contain healing factors or enzymes to help break down dead tissue.
Most treatment plans for chronic wounds will also include pain management. Depending on the type of wound you’re dealing it, it may never heal completely. However, following the proper treatment regimen can help to keep them under control.
The Davis Community Offers Rehabilitation at Its Finest
The Davis Community has a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center where our residents can exercise and/or recover from their surgeries or injuries using modern equipment designed especially for seniors. We take pride in offering the best rehabilitation in Wilmington NC. If you or an aging parent need physical rehabilitation, visit our Facebook page to learn more about the fitness center at Davis Community. Or, for more information about our retirement community, nursing homes, or skilled nursing services, just give us a call today at 910-566-1200.