Preventing Chronic Wounds In Vulnerable Patients

For many of us, finding a scratch or sore on our body isn’t a big deal. After applying a bit of antiseptic and a Band-Aid, we’re back to our normal activities without much further thought.

But for older people a simple wound – left untreated – can turn into a chronic issue that can result in years of pain, permanent disability and even death.

Chronic wounds are a largely unrecognised serious health issue in Australia, impacting almost 500,000 Australians daily and costing our health system $3 billion annually.

Wounds can affect anyone’s quality of life, but people over the age of 65 are most at risk of a wound becoming a significant health problem. For the elderly, even a small wound can become a life-changing condition if it’s not treated quickly enough.

With Australia’s elderly population growing each year, our ‘hidden affliction’ of chronic wounds is set to rise.

We’re participating in Wound Awareness Week, which aims to raise awareness about wounds as a serious health issue. With the right prevention and treatment measures, wounds can be stopped from devastating the lives of so many Australians.

What are chronic wounds?

A wound is any damage that has broken the surface of the skin, such as a sore or cut. Many wounds heal quickly and without complication. But when the damage takes more than three months to heal, or the wound is recurring, it’s considered a chronic wound.

Chronic wounds are often ‘stuck’ in one of the phases of healing. They typically fall into one of the following classifications:

  • Diabetic ulcers – These result from poor blood circulation, nerve damage and impaired immune function.
  • Venous ulcers – Often starting from venous diseases, these can develop in the leg and become inflamed and painful.
  • Arterial ulcers – These round-shaped wounds usually affect full skin thickness and appear ‘punched out’.
  • Pressure sores – Caused by staying in the same position for long periods of time, pressure sores occur due to prolonged pressure affecting blood flow to the skin and tissue. They are particularly common in healthcare facilities such as hospitals and aged care centres.

What causes chronic wounds?

Healing requires a range of health conditions including good blood supply, plenty of oxygen and nutrients, and a clean and infection-free environment. When issues such as advanced age, medical conditions (such as diabetes), poor health and nutrition, or impaired mobility are present, the body’s requirements for healing aren’t fully met.

As a result, wounds can take prolonged periods to heal, reoccur periodically, or gradually get worse until they’re threatening life or limb.

Warning signs of wounds

You can tell if a wound is healing by its appearance – if it’s progressively improving in size and severity each week, you’re on the right track.

But if a wound isn’t healing, it’s important to watch out for the signs it’s progressing into something worse.

  • Pain and heat – If the wound is red, painful, swollen or hot, it could be signs of infection.
  • Odour – An unpleasant odour is often indicative of bacteria or other barriers to wound healing.
  • Excess fluid –A little bit of fluid is helpful for the body’s healing process, but excessive fluid can work to its detriment.
  • Slow healing – If there’s no reduction in the size or severity of the wound’s appearance each week, something is impacting the healing process.

Preventing wounds in healthcare settings

Chronic wounds are far easier to prevent than to treat. The best way healthcare providers such as hospitals and aged care facilities can combat chronic wounds is to have a prevention and treatment plan that involves the following:

  • Regular skin inspections of at-risk patients
  • Close monitoring of diabetic, bariatric and elderly patients for signs of a wound
  • Tracking the healing progress of known wounds
  • Maintaining proper hygiene and wound care standards

Additionally, specialised equipment is available to help prevent the occurrence of common wounds such as pressure sores.

Pressure care experts Keystone Healthcare offer a range of wound prevention solutions for hospitals and aged care centres across Australia. This equipment helps prevent patient skin injuries and includes:

Where to get further information

Keystone Healthcare are dedicated to reducing preventable injuries in healthcare settings Australia-wide. We offer equipment for rental or purchase, as well as delivery, installation and staff training on its proper use.

To discuss your facility’s wound prevention needs, call us on 1300 547 877.