Those in charge of assisting the elderly must help their clients with different tasks. Often, these nurses or home health aides are asked to assist with medical issues. One medical issue that might seem minor but that is important to get right is wound care. Proper wound care practices should happen by those working with the elderly. This prevents further complications and illnesses down the line. You can learn more about proper and improper wound care practices here.
A wound affects a person’s skin or mucous membrane. If the skin or membrane are broken, torn, scratched, or damaged in any way, it is a wound. There are many different ways that wounds may be classified. Factors of the wound play into treatment. A doctor will consider thickness, complexity, and duration of the wound. Wounds can be anything from cuts, scrapes, burns, bites, and stings, to electrical shocks. In nursing homes, many different wounds may occur to the elder residents. Common wounds include ulcers, bedsores, surgery cuts, and injuries from a fall.
In order for a wound to heal properly, it must go through three phases in a specific order. First comes inflammation, which is when a scab forms. Then comes proliferation, when new skin grows underneath the scab. Maturation is the last stage. It is the final healing process where the scab falls off and the wound finishes healing. Typically, as a person ages, the healing process becomes slower and more difficult. To elder adults, healing wounds is quite difficult. Without proper care, complications can arise.
Cuts and scrapes might seem like minor issues. But, a nursing home staff member or home health aide should carefully check and treat any wound. This includes proper cleaning and bandaging of the wound. It also includes continued observation of the wound. If a caretaker cuts corners when cleaning a wound, complications can arise. Different wounds need different types of care and every person’s skin is different. The most common difficulty associated with elderly wounds is infection. Any open wound is susceptible to bacterial infections. If the staff of the nursing home improperly cares for a resident and an infection occurs, death could be the result. Some common signs of infection include:
- Pus in, around, or coming from the wound.
- Red or tenderness on or around the wound.
- Any foul odor emanating from the wound.
Common Elderly Wounds: Bedsores
Bedsores can form when an elderly resident is not able to move positions on a frequent, regular basis. If a bedsore forms, the staff must pay close attention in order for it to heal. If the staff of the nursing home doesn’t keep the resident off the bedsore, the wound will only worsen. Dead skin around the wound is also common in the elderly. The dead skin then will prevent the body from being able to heal the wound. This could in turn lead to many complications.
The elderly frequently take medication that thins the blood. If a cut or scrape occurs on an elderly body, excessive bleeding could be the result. Too much blood will prohibit the wound from scabbing up and starting the healing process. If your loved one develops a bedsore, it is important that the staff pay close attention to this wound. The staff should make sure that it is healing. If the staff fails to do this, they could be accused of neglect.
Wounds on the elderly need special care and attention. The staff must check the bandages on residents and apply ointment when necessary. If the staff members of the nursing home fail to care for your elder loved one’s wound properly, infection may be the result. Infection is especially dangerous in the elderly. This is because it could lead to amputation or death. If you suspect your loved one has an infection or if a wound on them have gotten worse because of improper care, contact a doctor immediately.