How to Assess and Treat Wounds
Most patients have families who are providing some level of care and support. In the case of older persons and those with chronic disabilities of all ages, this “informal care” can be substantial in scope, intensity, and duration. Each and every day includes a long line of duties when you’re providing care for a loved one who has a chronic condition, disabled or is an older person.
This blog offers several basic wound care tips. While these suggestions should be useful in many cases, check with your loved one’s doctor for information about his or her specific condition.
As the primary caregiver for a loved one’s wounds, one of your most important job is to prevent infection—not only because infection can lengthen the wound healing process, but also because certain infections can be life-threatening.
When you have to add wound care to the list of things to do, the challenge of providing at home wound care might seem overwhelming at first.
To help you feel more empowered while tackling this new and difficult responsibility, Wound Specialist Services offer these tips for ensuring you have the information you need to help manage and reduce the risk of wound problems.
Pressure injuries, also known as pressure ulcers or bedsores, are one of the most common types of wounds. They can be life-threatening if left untreated. Pressure injuries may be caused by unrelieved pressure over bony prominences such as the heels or the bottom, because of sitting or lying in one position for an extended period of time. They can also occur because of the presence of constant moisture or from rubbing or slipping down in the bed or chair.
Following are some recommendations for avoiding pressure injuries:
- Use appropriate support surfaces such as a specialised mattress or cushion
- Change position at least every two hours in bed and every hour in a chair
- Avoid using donut-type devices
- When lying on the side, try to use pillows between legs and take pressure off the heels
Look for any persistent areas of skin redness or discolouration that lasts more than 20 minutes after the position has changed. This is typically the first visible sign of a pressure injury, which can progress to a maroon or purple colour. Pressure injuries are also sometimes associated with a change in skin temperature or texture.
When resting in a bed: If you’re providing at home wound care for someone who has trouble moving on their own, help them to change position at least every two hours if they are in bed during the day. To maximize pressure injury prevention, make sure they are using a specialised pressure reducing mattress, but avoid those that resemble egg crate foam. Place a pillow lengthways under the calves of both legs to help prevent the heels from touching the bed and use pillows and foam wedges to keep the ankles and knees apart.
When resting in a chair: If you’re assisting someone who has difficulty getting around on their own, help them reposition at least once every hour when they are sitting in a chair. If you notice your loved one sitting with their legs crossed, encourage them to shift to a new position since crossed legs can reduce blood flow and put pressure on nerves and blood vessels.
Skin tears and seniors
Are you providing wound care at home for an older adult? Take extra care to be gentle when helping them move during routine activities to avoid causing any unnecessary friction when shifting in a chair or rolling over in a bed because these actions can result in skin tears. If damage does occur, aid the healing process by dressing wound with a protective, non-adherent dressing such as a silicone foam. Monitor all skin tears, and seek help from a healthcare professional ASAP if you have any concerns or you see signs of infection.
The best way to prevent skin tears is to apply a pH neutral, perfume free emollient to the skin at least twice every day and to avoid using harsh soaps on the skin.
Diabetic foot ulcers
If you’re helping provide wound care at home to a person with diabetes, keep an eye on their feet. Diabetic foot ulcers can form from shoes that don’t fit quite right or because of injuries to the feet as a result of minor trauma.
People who have diabetes don’t always notice when they have pain or a wound developing on their feet because of nerve damage which causes a loss of feeling. Please check out our other blog Preventing Diabetic Foot Ulcers for more information.
Venous ulcers are a common type of leg ulcer and are wounds on the leg that occur between the ankle and below the knee. These wounds are caused from high blood pressure in the legs (venous hypertension). This can cause swelling in the legs, fluid to leak from the skin and ulcers to develop.
If you’re helping provide in-home wound care to a person who has (or has had) venous ulcers, monitor them closely and do what you can to help prevent complications. Work with them to create a plan that promotes getting in some daily exercise (like walking) to increase blood flow to the legs and encourage leg elevation equal to or above heart level for at least 30 minutes twice daily. If they have been prescribed compression hosiery, make sure it is replaced regularly (about every 6 months or if they are laddered or torn), use an applicator device to make it easier to get them on, and check the skin every day. Seek assistance from your healthcare professional if the wound fails to heal within 3 months, the person develops an infection, the wound heals and then comes back again, the symptoms limit lifestyle, or you if you have any worries or concerns. It’s better to seek help early than to wait and suffer in silence.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself, too
Acting as a caregiver for a loved one can be stressful. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Pay attention to your own mood and watch out for any signs of depression.
Wound Specialist Services provides dedicated wound care throughout Australia
Even with the best plan for at-home wound care during wound healing, your loved one may still need professional health care. Once your loved one has a wound, it is crucial to get a proper treatment plan in place as soon as possible to make sure healing starts ASAP.
Wound Specialist Services offers a telehealth service across Australia helping to improve access to wound expertise. We work with health care professionals to help you to help your loved one. If your wound healing process begins to slow or reverse (or if new wounds or infections appear), seek help or schedule an appointment.