On February 2, 2012, the International Wound Journal published an article titled “Wound Outcomes in Patients with Advanced Illness.” The article studied elderly adults who were sustaining serious wounds, in addition to suffering from advanced illnesses, such as cancer. The patients had various types of wounds, including pressure ulcers, malignant wounds, skin tears, inflammatory wounds, and venous leg ulcers, arterial leg and foot ulcers. The goal of the study was to observe the potential for wounds to heal completely, despite the presence of an advanced illness.
The study split the participants into four groups based on the length of time that they were able to live with the wound before passing away. The divisions were as such: 7 days or less, 8 to 30 days, 31 to 91 days, and 92 to 182 days. The wound type that occurred most often in the patients studied were pressure ulcers. The results of the study showed variations in the complete healing of pressure sores, depending on their level of severity. Most pressure ulcers that had only progressed to the first or second stage were usually able to heal successfully and completely. However, only one stage three pressure ulcer in the entire study was able to heal completely, while no stage four ulcers were observed to have healed completely.
The results of the study merely emphasize the importance of identifying and diagnosing wounds early on in their stages of development. Many prevention techniques are available and are generally very successful in preventing the development of pressure sores. However, in order for any of these prevention techniques to be carried our properly and achieve their full effectiveness, facilities must be adequately staffed, as each technique requires careful attention to each individual patient.
Although the article defined an advanced illness as one that would cause the patient to die within six months, the study succeeded in disproving the common assumption that dying patients cannot fully recover from wounds. Unfortunately, many skilled nursing facilities leave patients to suffer in the last days of their lives because they are misinformed that there is no point in trying to heal the wounds of patients who are on their deathbeds. In choosing a nursing home for your loved one, make sure that the staff is knowledgeable and willing to provide your loved one with the best care possible, up until the end of his or her life. Any refusal on the part of the skilled nursing facility to provide your loved one with the care that he or she needs in order to achieve the best quality of life is considered an act of nursing home neglect.