Over 65s hit by hidden affliction

Australians aged 65 and over are being affected by a ‘hidden affliction’ that is set to become more common as the population ages.

‘Chronic wounds’, defined as cuts or breaks in the skins that don’t heal within 30 days or that keep recurring, currently cost the individual up to $340 each month, and the health system around $3 billion a year.

Symptoms are becoming alarmingly common and, because people aged 65 and over are most at risk, the number of sufferers is expected to soar due to Australia’s ageing population.

“Chronic wounds are a hidden affliction in Australia and must be recognised as a serious health issue to safeguard our ageing population,” said Wounds Australia CEO Anne Buck.

Chronic wounds can be healed by health professionals, but many who are ‘blind to wounds’ don’t realise they have a chronic wound or don’t seek treatment. Some will suffer through this affliction without treatment for years.

David Templeman is one such case. He lived with a chronic wound since 1970, after injuring a leg playing football.

Assuming it was a minor injury, David finally sought treatment in February last year. His leg was bothering him and after major flare-up, he went for a check-up and discovered he’d been living with a venous leg ulcer – which can be treated and healed.

“I wish I knew to ask the question ‘is this a chronic wound?’” said David.

“My one piece of advice is that you shouldn’t suffer in silence – if a wound doesn’t show signs of healing within four weeks, you need to treat it seriously and seek appropriate medical assistance.”

Wounds Australia is encouraging older people to ‘Talk About Wounds’ with healthcare professionals, so they can understand the warning signs and any action they should take before further damage is done.

“Many chronic wound sufferers experience physical, emotional and social health barriers as the wounds stop them from enjoying the activities they normally do. This also causes financial insecurity for most because ongoing wound management is costly for the individual – and if not treated correctly – can cause further medical issues,” said Ms Buck.

Out-of-pocket expenses for chronic wound management, including medications and dressings – are estimated to be between $86 and $340 per month depending on the severity of the wound. As most sufferers are retired and potentially receiving the Age Pension, many will not seek treatment because they can’t afford it. However, the long-term costs may far outweigh the short-term pain to the hip pocket and of the wound itself.

Wound Awareness Week is an annual initiative of Wounds Australia taking place from 15–21 July 2018. For more information on Wound Awareness Week and chronic wounds, visit Wound Aware.

Do you think you may be suffering from a chronic wound? Or have you sought treatment for such an injury?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.


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