A recent AARP study revealed that more than one-third of caregivers believe wound care is a challenging task, and want more education on the topic. While many caregivers feel comfortable administering medications or assisting with activities of daily living, wound care can be more intimidating.
Some standard tips can help a caregiver feel confident when the time comes to change a wound dressing. First, ensure the surface and hands are clean, and any instruments sterile. Preventing infections is of the utmost importance. When removing the dressing, pull the tape toward the wound, with one hand on the skin. Use a new pair of gloves to redress it, and seal each edge of the gauze with medical tape. If symptoms of an infection begin to develop (temperature, chills, smelly fluids or drainage from the wound, swelling or redness, increased pain), call a physician.
A pressure ulcer, also called a pressure sore, is an area of skin that breaks down when something keeps rubbing or pressing against the skin. A person who has developed this condition must be repositioned frequently. This must occur at least every two hours if confined to a bed, and every hour if in a chair. Look out for red skin that gets worse over time or if the area forms a blister. Seek medical attention if you suspect your loved one is developing a pressure sore.
Skin tears are wounds or lacerations that are most commonly seen in older people. They occur as a result of friction and appear most frequently on the hands and arms, so caregivers should be careful during daily routines such as dressing, bathing, transferring, etc. to prevent them. Managing these tears is the tough part because they can be painful and slow to heal. If the initial tear is small, it is easy to overlook, but it is important to be vigilant as the tear can easily become a larger, more serious wound. Should your loved one develop a skin tear, be sure you understand the prescribed treatment completely and carefully follow the instructions for care.
Diabetic Wound Care
Every 30 seconds, someone loses a lower limb from complications with diabetes. With diabetes, there is no such thing as a minor wound. A small foot sore can turn into an ulcer and if not treated, lead to amputation. Common places for ulcers to develop are the ball of the foot and below the big toe. Ulcers can also develop on the side of the foot, often due to bad fitting shoes.
The American Diabetes Association says it's important to keep a diabetic's skin clean and dry, applying talcum powder to areas where moisture is likely to develop. Very hot water in showers/baths should be avoided and a caregiver should take measures to prevent dry skin.
A caregiver must keep a watchful eye on the integrity of a loved one’s skin. Look at least once a day for changes in color or temperature, as well as rashes, sores or painful areas. Wound care can be less challenging with some basic knowledge.
Today’s Caregiver magazine (caregiver.com), launched in 1995, is the first national magazine for all family and professional caregivers. Each issue includes articles on vital caregiving issues and caregiving resources. Cover interviews include Debbie Reynolds, Dixie Carter, Valerie Harper, Della Reese and Clay Aiken, among many others. © Caregiver.com, Inc.