Care workers are critical to preventing wounds among aged care residents and they need to be empowered to act, says an aged care wounds specialist.
The usual strategy in aged care is to have care workers provide the basics, such as showering or assisting with meals, but they have a key role to play in wound prevention, said Hayley Puckeridge, Uniting wound clinical nurse consultant.
She called on aged care organisations to empower their care staff because they are critical to observing skin integrity issues as they saw residents at their most vulnerable including when naked.
“That is the prime opportunity to do that full head-to-toe assessment and if they see any breaks, redness or dryness, it can be treated before it becomes a problem,” Ms Puckeridge told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Ms Puckeridge was speaking to AAA on Tuesday at Uniting’s two-day wound conference in Sydney, which she organised as part of an organisation-wide education program that aims to fill knowledge gaps in preventing and treating wounds.
“I am trying to make people rethink and refocus how they look at wounds,” she said.
Ms Puckeridge has spent the last year providing full-day training to almost 2,000 nursing and care staff across Uniting’s services in NSW and the ACT on wound prevention and management.
The 260-plus delegates are now the wound champions for their respective services and will meet with Ms Puckeridge every month.
She said among identified common challenges is a lack of understanding on venous ulcers, which were more prevalent than pressure injuries in aged care and often needed surgical intervention or better treatment.
Another focus was ensuring early referral for specialist treatment.
Two sessions on Tuesday based on diabetic foot ulcers were among key topics aimed at providing best-practice information on these issues, she said.
Elsewhere, Stephen Doggett, director of the Department of Medical Entomology at Westmead Hospital, told delegates why they should consider maggot therapy.
Maggot debridement therapy (MDT) involves placing live disinfected maggots on chronic and necrotic wounds in order to debride and dinsifect a wound and promote healing.
MDT has an 85 per cent success rate, where the alternative would be amputation, doesn’t require hospitalisation, and is cheap, usually costing between $200 and $500 per person, Mr Doggett said.
Despite this, MDT is an underused resource in Australia with challenges including a lack of acceptance by the medical community, he said.
Ms Puckeridge said she would investigate whether MDT could be used within Uniting’s services.
Opportunity to change habits
Uniting director of residential aged and health care Saviour Buhagiar said the event aimed to expose staff to the latest thinking and techniques.
Keeping up to date with advice, equipment and treatments were among operational challenges to providing the best wound treatment in residential aged care, he said.
“Getting people to understand what they have done for many years might need to change is a critical feature because people tend to fall back on habits,” Mr Buhagiar told AAA.
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