Older people at risk for chronic wounds

According to the latest U.S. Census figures, there are now more Americans age 65 and older than at any other time in U.S. history and that number is expected to grow faster over the next decade to as more baby boomers turn 65.

During Older Americans Month in May, health care experts from Midland Memorial Wound Management, a member of the Healogics Network, note that specialists agree that older people are at risk for injuries that do not heal.

Aging skin repairs itself at a slower rate than younger skin, with wound healing sometimes up to four times slower in older people, according to the National Institutes of Health. In addition to the normal aging process, other factors such as underlying medical conditions, increased falls and poor diet play a role.

As a normal part of aging, the outer layer of skin thins and blood vessels become more fragile, leading to bruising and bleeding under the skin. The layer of fat under the skin also thins, reducing its normal padding, which can protect against injury.

While no one can turn back the clock, Midland Memorial Wound Management offers the following tips to reduce and prevent the risk of chronic wounds in people over 65:

  • Pay attention to your general health: people with chronic wounds often have other underlying conditions such as diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, vascular disease or radiation damage. As people age, they are more likely to develop one or more of these conditions, and managing them properly helps the body heal injuries faster.
  • Be on the lookout: Physical changes in the skin as we age can reduce our ability to sense touch and pressure. Additionally, conditions such as diabetes can cause nerve damage, which can impair sensation, and failing eyesight can make it difficult to detect changes in the skin. Inspect your skin and feet for reddened skin that gets worse over time, blisters, or open sores. If you have trouble seeing, ask a family member or caregiver to help you.
  • Know Your Medications: A study of US emergency rooms found that the incidence of adverse drug events continually increased in patients over 60 years of age. Often, antibiotics or other medications will be needed to treat wounds for infection. It is important that your medical providers have a list of the medications you are currently taking and which ones you are allergic to.
  • Watch your balance: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of adults age 65 and older fall each year. Balance disorders can be caused by aging, inner ear problems, medications, infections, poor blood circulation, or other conditions. See a doctor to diagnose the cause, and be extra careful when standing, sitting, and walking.
  • Eat right: Nutrient deficiencies can lead to skin changes, such as rashes, and not drinking enough water also increases the risk of skin damage.
  • Take care of your skin: The sebaceous glands under the skin produce less oil as you age, leading to dry and sometimes itchy skin. Use lotions and moisturizers to keep skin moist and more ready to heal.
  • Protect yourself from pressure sores: More commonly known as pressure sores, pressure sores occur when an area of ​​skin under constant pressure breaks down. Risk factors include being older, having limited mobility, having a condition that inhibits blood flow, and malnutrition. Pressure ulcers usually form on the skin near the bones, such as in the areas around the elbows, heels, hips, ankles, shoulders, back, and back of the head. Do not massage the area around a pressure sore as this can tear the skin and break fragile blood vessels. Consult your health care provider for instructions on how to care for the wound and preventive measures such as the right kind of pillows and cushions that can ease the pressure.
  • Know when to see a doctor: Infections can delay healing and spread to other parts of the body. Warning signs include increased pain at the wound site, redness or swelling moving away from the wound, foul odor from the wound, change in color or amount of drainage from the wound , or if you experience fever, chills, nausea or vomiting.

For more information on chronic wounds, contact: Midland Memorial Wound Management Center, F. Marie Hall Outpatient Center, 4214 Andrews Highway Suite 220, or call 432-221-4850.