As we age, our body composition begins to slow, from cell regeneration that’s needed for healing and muscle development, to our body’s slower immune response which includes the phases of wound healing. A wound is damage that occurs to skin tissue as the result of trauma. With age, the skin becomes thinner, less elastic, drier and finely wrinkled. This is because the aging body produces less collagen and elastin, which also makes your skin more vulnerable to injury, infection and stubborn wounds.
Controlling underlying conditions and watching for early signs of trouble can help improve senior wound care outcomes and avoid stubborn, nonhealing or chronic wounds. Nonhealing wounds are wounds that haven’t started healing within 2 weeks or have not completely healed within 6 weeks.
The importance of proper senior wound care
Proper care helps seniors avoid untreated or chronic wounds and significantly lowers their risk of infection. Many seniors may not have the mobility, motor dexterity or mental capacity to properly care for their own wounds, so it’s important to have a thorough, proactive approach to wound care for elderly skin. Here are a few important things you can do to help your aging loved one if they suffer a moderate skin injury:
- Protect wound
Put on medical gloves or find a clean cloth so you can put something between your hands and the wound. This will help protect the wound from excess dirt or bacteria.
- Control bleeding
If the wound is actively bleeding, apply pressure until the bleeding stops, and, if possible, elevate the area above their heart. If the bleeding does not stop on its own after 10 minutes, call 911 or visit your local urgent care immediately.
- Remove jewelry and debris
Once the bleeding stops, inspect the wound and remove any surface dirt, debris or glass by washing the wounded area under running tap water. This will also help remove excess bacteria. It’s also a good idea to remove any clothing or jewelry from the general wound area so if swelling occurs, it will not affect blood flow.
- Cover wound
Cover the wound with petroleum jelly and a sterile bandage.
- Visit the doctor
A crucial part of senior wound care is having it examined as soon as possible at the hospital or clinic. The consequences of an infection can be very serious for an elderly person. They can spread rapidly and threaten their long-term health. Be sure to follow the instructions of the physician and take any medications exactly as prescribed (even if symptoms disappear) to avoid further complications.
- Exercise and diet
Wound care for elderly skin may also include exercise techniques to improve circulation to the affected area as well as a diet plan that supports wound healing.
Conditions that increase the risk of non-healing wounds
Certain health conditions can significantly increase an elderly person’s risk for stubborn, nonhealing wounds, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Varicose veins
- Immobility (e.g., bed or wheelchair confinement)
- Poor nutrition
- Weakened immune system (e.g., chemotherapy, immunosuppressive medications or an autoimmune disease)
If you need expert medical treatment for a wound or other skin integrity issue, visit your local Gulf Coast Health Care center. Our caring, well-trained healthcare professionals will create an individualized and comprehensive wound treatment plan so you can start feeling better fast.