More than 2.5 million people develop pressure injuries each year in the United States, significantly impacting health, activity level and quality of life for many patients and their families. Pressure injuries limit healthy aging and are preventable in most cases. For more than a decade, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has limited reimbursement for healthcare-acquired conditions like pressure injuries; thus, prevention and early intervention and treatment are critical.
Because of the severity and cost implications associated with pressure injuries, facilities cannot rely on just a few wound care or rehabilitation specialists to address the problem. Effective pressure injury prevention and treatment requires an interdisciplinary approach that engages the patient and family across the continuum of care.
One resource that can increase patient engagement is the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP), which is currently collaborating with the European Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel and Pan Pacific Pressure Injury Alliance to revise the Prevention and Treatment of Pressure Ulcers/Injuries: Clinical Practice Guideline. Consumers worldwide were previously invited to share their "voice" in the development of these guidelines.
Older adults are at increased risk for developing pressure injuries for several reasons, including more comorbidities and the natural process of aging. The NPUAP's Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Toolkit can help your facility gain insights into how pressure injuries develop and where potential gaps in care may exist.
What else can YOU do to combat pressure injuries?
Two important and modifiable risk factors for preventing pressure injuries are activity and nutrition. Reduced activity has been linked to pressure injury development, which demonstrates the importance of promoting active aging.
Malnutrition-particularly under-nutrition and low protein intake can also increase risk. Adults over 50 are typically not eating enough protein, with research showing one in three adults are not meeting their protein needs.
Good nutrition helps during the healing process too. Nutrition tips to promote wound healing include getting sufficient calories, eating optimum amounts of protein, staying adequately hydrated and controlling blood sugar levels-especially for people with diabetes.
Pressure injuries are complex, and it is vital that providers, caregivers and older adults all understand opportunities for prevention, intervention and treatment. Focusing on modifiable risk factors and using resources such as those provided by the NPUAP can help practitioners stay current on the latest pressure injury guidelines, education and research, thus helping older adults remain more active and engaged.
Mary Litchford, PhD, RDN, LDN, immediate past president of NPUAP, nutrition entrepreneur and president of CASE Software & Books.