Senior people don’t respond to immune challenges as effectively as younger people. It is because they have reduced the production of B and T cells in bone marrow and thymus. Because there are fewer immune cells in the body to bring about healing, wounds in seniors may take much longer to heal.
Seniors may also develop an autoimmune disorder, causing the immune system to mistakenly attack and destroy healthy body tissue. Even the smallest wounds in seniors may take forever to heal. That's why proper wound care is required. Some people turn to professional healthcare givers to assist their senior loved ones. Click here to get more insight.
Wound care for seniors is a delicate task that should be treated with care. Here's a thoroughly put together guide to help you:
1. Know What Wound Care In Seniors Entails
Wound care refers to the established plan to help your body heal from wounds that won’t naturally heal themselves. Processes involved in wound care include the following:
- Wound dressing
- Wound cleaning
- Bandage changes
- Physical therapy
It's wiser not to gamble with a senior’s health and turn to healthcare professionals if the wound is more than a simple scratch or bruise.
2. Assess The Wound
Not all wounds are the same. Superficial cuts, scrapes, as well as scratches, can be cared for at home. You can simply open your first aid box and get to work. However, if you have a senior loved one who has diabetes or the skin is visibly thin, even a small scratch can escalate if proper care is not taken.
If the cut is wide and open and they experience some bleeding, you might want to turn to professional healthcare givers. The sooner they visit the doctor, the better their odds at dodging possible infections.
3. Be Mindful Of Non-Healing Wounds
If a senior has a wound that hasn’t healed even after two weeks, they have what is medically known as a non-healing wound. Non-healing wounds in seniors often come in the form of surgical sores, pressure sores, radiation sores, and ulcers.
These wounds can be intensified if a senior suffers from the following:
- Poor circulation
- Weak immune system
Most seniors suffer from at least one of these and are at risk of infection from non-healing wounds. Try as much as possible to avoid waiting two weeks before you decide to get professional care for your senior loved one and just nip the problem in the bud.
4. Know How Wounds Progress
You've probably already established that wound care is likely to be more effective when action is taken in the early stages of the wound. You also need to address the underlying chronic conditions that may cause wounds. These may be diabetes, venous insufficiency, and tissue ischemia. Addressing this will paint an accurate picture of the treatment needed.
Ensure that someone is monitoring their skin and ensuring their wounds in receiving the appropriate care; if your senior loved one is living in a community of seniors.
5. Find A Healthcare Provider
Entrusting healthcare providers with your loved one’s wounds is probably the best decision you’ll make. When you work with a wound care certified care provider, you give your senior loved one a chance at the best quality care.
Also, their wounds are bound to heal faster, which may ultimately be a good way to cut costs. When you take wound care into your own hands, your senior is at risk of infections and re-infections. When you add up the overall care costs, you’ll realize you were probably better off engaging a healthcare professional in the first place.
6. Take Extra Care Of Your Senior Loved One’s Skin
Injury isn’t the only cause of wounds in elderly people. Aside from diabetes, most senior people stay put in the same position from long periods. This is especially the case in seniors that are paralyzed, using walkers, and/or wheelchairs. These may eventually lead to bed sores and other skin conditions.
These risks can be minimized by following the necessary routines. These may include the following:
- Changing positions in their bed or wheelchair to reduce pressure impact on their skin
- Providing more support using water or gel filled cushions to help with positioning
- Preventing rashes by only using mild soap and water to clean their skins
These routines are preventative measure. Rather than treating wounds, choose to work on avoiding them where possible.
7. Familiarize Yourself With DIY Wound Care Techniques
It's best to engage wound care professionals especially if your senior loved one has deep wounds. However, if you must do the wound care yourself, then at least do it right. Here are some tips to help you with your DIY wound care:
- If they have a bleeding wound, apply pressure on it until the bleeding stops. If this fails, it’s time to seek medical attention.
- Gently remove any glass, dirt, or debris from the wound
- Clean the wound using a saline solution or a mild soap
- Use a sterile bandage to cover the wound
Following these steps may help prevent the wound from getting infected. However, you may still use these steps just to get the situation under control (to a certain extent) before you make your way to the necessary healthcare facility.
If you decide to take your senior to the hospital, make sure they take prescribed medicines religiously even when they feel no symptoms. Some prescriptions like antibiotics to prevent or stop infection from spreading come as a full course and the patient shouldn’t default.
8. Factors That May Hinder The Healing Process
There are factors that can impede the healing process in seniors. Besides the commonly known chronic disease (diabetes) factor, wound healing in seniors can also be slowed down by stress, obesity, alcoholism, smoking, and nutrition.
You should try as much as possible to make sure your senior loved one leads a healthy and stress-free life. You can do this by making sure they eat healthy as well as exercise to the best of their ability.
Wound care in seniors can be a bit more complex than wound care in younger people. Elderly people’s immune systems are not as strong, causing healing to be much slower. It's wiser to take seniors to healthcare professionals for wound healing. This way, they’ll receive the best care and avoid infections.
Tanja Zimmermann is a final-year law student. She teaches English online as a part-time job. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, playing basketball, and listening to music.