Letha Walker, 84, has had several wounds that needed specialized care in the last year or so. And each time, she went back to the TMC Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine.
Walker, who lives about 30 miles away in Ravenna, TX, says her first experience with wound care happened after a protein drink bottle slipped out of her hand, bounced on the floor, and hit her leg near the ankle bone, cutting it. “I cleaned it off and didn’t think anything of it, but it got infected,” says Walker. “I saw my primary doctor, and he referred me for wound care.” Jamison Alexander, DO, and the staff at the TMC Center for Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Medicine were welcoming and very accommodating, says Walker. “They are so good at what they do, and my wound was healed over the course of several weeks.”
Earlier this year, Walker’s doctor found a suspicious spot on her leg and suggested she have it evaluated by a dermatologist. It proved to be cancerous and Walker had it removed. But during the healing process, it became infected, and Walker was referred for wound care treatment. “I went back to my friends at the wound care center, and they took care of me. Dr. Alexander is wonderful and we always have great conversations,” says Walker. “I never dread coming here, and they are so good at what they do. They are also kind enough to give me appointments in the afternoon, since it takes me a while to get here. They are always happy to see me, and everyone knows me by my first name.”
Walker went in for treatment once a week, and in a few months, her wound was healed. She has recommended others to receive care here, and says she would not hesitate to come back if she needs it.
Wound care in older adults
It is not uncommon for seniors to have complications with wound healing, notes Dr. Alexander. “As people age, the skin becomes more thin and brittle. This makes it easier for breaks to occur in the skin, which can lead to infection,” he says. “But wounds can have a tougher time healing, especially if the patient has diabetes or inadequate blood flow. Sometimes medications, especially steroids, can delay healing.” Dr. Alexander also cautions against using strong, antibacterial soap, as it can wear down the epidermal layer of skin. “Use a gentle soap every other day to avoid wearing down the outer layer of the skin,” he says.
Other complications can occur in patients who have issues with memory. “They can have difficulty remembering their appointments, how to care for their wound dressings between appointments, and what was discussed at the previous visit,” he says. “We regroup with our patients at every appointment and coordinate with home health to make sure everyone is on the same page for optimal healing.” Dr. Alexander also explains that wound care is tailored to the wound, and patients are usually seen weekly so adjustments can be made based on the wound’s condition. “Patients who come in weekly typically heal faster than those who come every two weeks,” he says
For stubborn wounds, especially post-surgical wounds or wounds as a result of radiation, a patient may require hyperbaric oxygen treatment. This treatment can dramatically increase the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, and it gets down to the cellular level to speed healing, kill bacteria and help new cells generate. In addition, palliative wound care is available for patients with wounds resulting from advanced stages of cancer that cannot be healed. “In these situations, we tailor our dressings to help keep the wounds stable, control drainage and odor, and help with pain,” says Dr. Alexander.
Dr. Alexander advises that if you have a wound that is not 50 percent healed in 30 days, or if not fully healed within two months, you should call the center for a consult or discuss the issue with your primary care physician.