Wound Care Articles and Insights
May 1, 2023

Older Americans and Their Risk of Chronic Wounds

Kallie Christensen

It is no secret that as we age, our bodies undergo changes that can increase the risk of developing health related issues. One of these health concerns is the susceptibility of forming a chronic wound. Chronic wounds are wounds that fail to heal within three months or more. They can be painful, debilitating, and can significantly impact the quality of life of the person suffering with a non healing wound. In this blog post, we will explore the statistics associated with chronic wounds in senior Americans, as well as the risk factor for developing a chronic wound, and tips for prevention and management. Be sure to steal our downloadable versions of the facts and statistics covered in this blog as well as our free patient education flyer. Downloading allows you to access more of our resources available on our WoundTok community newsletter. Get your resources and join below.

Although chronic wounds affect millions of Americans each year, senior Americans are at an increased risk of a hard to heal wound forming. In fact, seniors make up the majority of patients living with a chronic wound;

  • Approximately 8.2 million Americans over the age of 65 have chronic wounds.
  • Seniors account for nearly 85% of all chronic wound cases.
  • The prevalence of chronic wounds increases with age, with seniors over the age of 75 having the highest incidence.

Even though wounds can be the result of many different things as the skin becomes thinner with age, there are several factors that can increase the risk of developing chronic wounds in seniors, including:

  • Chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, peripheral artery disease, or heart disease.
  • Reduced mobility or being bedridden.
  • Poor nutrition.
  • Smoking.
  • Impaired immune function.
  • Medications that affect wound healing.

The positive side is that chronic wounds are not developed overnight, and with the appropriate prevention and management techniques, they do not have to become life threatening. The prevention and management of chronic wounds in seniors involve a comprehensive approach that includes proper wound care, healthy lifestyle habits, and management of underlying health conditions. Here are some tips for preventing and managing chronic wounds in seniors:

  1. Practice Good Hygiene Habits: Seniors should bathe regularly to keep their skin clean and moisturized in dry areas to prevent infections that can lead to chronic wounds.
  2. Wear proper footwear: Seniors should wear properly fitting shoes to prevent foot injuries and blisters.
  3. Stay active: Regular exercise can improve circulation and help prevent pressure ulcers caused by prolonged sitting or lying down.
  4. Practice good nutrition: A healthy diet rich in nutrients, such as protein, vitamin C, and zinc, can help promote wound healing.
  5. Quit smoking: Smoking can impair circulation and delay wound healing, so seniors should avoid smoking to reduce the risk of chronic wounds.
  6. Manage chronic health conditions: Seniors with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or peripheral artery disease, should work with their healthcare provider to manage their condition and prevent further health complications. .
  7. Protect skin from the sun: Seniors should protect their skin from the sun to prevent skin damage.
  8. Keep the wound clean and covered: Seniors should clean their wound regularly and keep it covered to prevent infection and promote healing. As well as working with a care team to apply the appropriate dressings and topical aides. 
  9. Seek emotional support: Living with chronic wounds can be emotionally challenging. Seniors should seek emotional support from family, friends, or a mental health professional to help them cope with their condition.

Chronic wounds can significantly impact a senior's quality of life, and impact the majority of the American elderly, but with proper prevention and management, they can be avoided and treated when needed. Seniors can reduce their risk of developing chronic wounds by following a healthy lifestyle, managing chronic health conditions, and seeking timely medical care for wounds that do not heal. By following these tips, seniors can maintain their independence, mobility, and quality of life. Be sure to take all this info with you for your patients and providers. Downloadable versions of these tips and stats can be found above by signing up for our newsletter.

Facts & Statistics:

8.2 Million Seniors over 65 will develop a non-healing chronic wound

The 5 year mortality rate for seniors with wounds is the same as cancer at 31%. 

Nearly 70% of all lower-limb amputations in the United States are performed on people aged 65 and older. 

Older adults with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing non-healing chronic wounds. In fact, diabetic foot ulcers are estimated to affect between 12-25% of people with diabetes in their lifetime.

Chronic wounds are associated with a higher risk of hospitalization and increased healthcare costs. In one study, Medicare beneficiaries with chronic wounds had 6 times higher hospitalization rates and 3 times higher healthcare costs compared to those without chronic wounds.

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