Wound healing in the seniors is often a complicated issue. The seniors usually experience delayed wound healing more frequently than their younger counterparts. As we grow older, wounds, be it from accidents or surgery procedures, are more likely to take time to heal. This may sound awkward but it is worthy of note that delayed wound healing is one of the changes that happen to our body as we age. Consequently, It is of great importance that everyone involved in caring for the seniors— from the doctors to the family members or personal caregivers should observe, learn more about the wound recovery process among the seniors and be ready to deal with such issues in the best possible way.
WHY IS WOUND RECOVERY MORE COMPLICATED AMONG THE SENIORS?
Here are some of the reasons why seniors suffer delayed wound recovery:
One of the most common reasons for delayed wound healing in the seniors is Diabetes. Diabetes can slow down the wound healing process because the increased blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes narrows the blood vessels and hardens the arteries. Aside from that, there is also diabetic neuropathy which results in loss of sensation, and can also slow down the process of healing. In a situation where a diabetic patient can no longer feel changes in a wound, it can become more severe.
- DELAYED INFLAMMATORY RESPONSE
The inflammatory response is the initial phase when blood vessels expand to allow nutrients and white blood cells to get to the wound. Essentially, the immune system inflames the wound to prevent further infections in case of burns, cuts, and similar injuries. Due to aging, this process extremely slows down in the seniors, which is why their wounds tend to heal much slower than usual.
- REDUCED SKIN ELASTICITY
As we age, our skin loses its elasticity. The elastic tissue and collagen fibers in the outer layer of the skin which is meant to provide strength and flexibility, as well as help the tissue to recover and restore it to its original state lose their effects as we grow older. This just happens naturally to the aged and can also prevent their wounds from recovering quickly. As the tissue loses its elasticity, it is not able to fully return into its natural shape and colour, which is exactly why the seniors have a higher risk of scarring from a wound.
Pressure injuries are also called bedsores, this occurs mostly when a senior has a prolonged mobility challenge. Then wounds develop with constant pressure (from lying down or sitting) on the skin which limits blood flow to tissues. Blood flow is essential for delivering oxygen and other nutrients to tissues. Without these essential nutrients, skin and nearby tissues are damaged and might eventually die. The wounds can suddenly become quite large or deep and they usually develop on areas where the bones are prominent — like the heels, buttocks, hips, head, and lower back. If bedsores are not promptly and not properly attended to, the wound may become worse, thereby delay healing and in some cases become irreversible.
HOW TO HELP SENIORS RECOVER AFTER AN INJURY
Here are some of the ways to help the seniors recover after an injury:
Caregivers taking care of seniors with injuries should help their loved ones to maintain proper nutrition and hydration. Their meal should contain the right proportion of nutrients needed to improve their health conditions. They should also be fed with proteins such as from lean meat, fish, or poultry as well as legumes, nuts, and seeds since the key to wound healing is protein. This will help to provide the amino acids necessary to rebuild their skin. Through their diets too, caregivers should help them get diabetes under control. Their diets should also contain supplements—Vitamin C and zinc which are essential to enable cells to multiply. They will help to speed up the healing process.
Caregivers should frequently help to reposition their loved ones to avoid stress on their skin. Like frequently helping them to get out of bed to a wheelchair and vice versa for those suffering with serious immobility challenges. This does not only help wounds heal but also discourage pressure wounds from forming.
Caregivers can help their loved ones with some adjustments in their lifestyle and everyday routine. Such as limiting the intake of alcohol, abstaining from smoking cigarettes as these can also contribute to the slow healing process. Caregivers can also encourage them to go through some exercise sessions daily to keep them as active as possible.
Caring for a senior after an injury can be a quite long process which takes a lot of time, strength, and patience. Healing process takes time for the seniors. Some crucial treatment happens away from the doctor’s office and is in the hands of the person caring for the affected senior. Knowing what the process is all helps the caregivers carry out their work out with little or no glitches. Caregivers and families can also help their loved ones avoid preventable injuries that can arise from accidents such as falls. Falls can lead to severe injuries. It is therefore noteworthy that everyone involved in caring for the seniors should be ready to show them love, care and support for them to feel safe and secure.