MY 82-YEAR-OLD FATHER had a history of lower extremity chronic venous disease. But when he developed multiple venous ulcers on his feet, it marked the start of a year-long period during which prescribed interventions failed to heal my father's foot wounds.
With my assistance, he treated his wounds for 1 hour each morning. He was grateful for my continuous committed care, and he often prepared the bandages by cutting them before I arrived. Remarkably, after several months, he was able to perform wound care on his own. But each time he returned to the wound clinic for scheduled follow-up appointments, his venous ulcers hadn't improved. He'd often wonder aloud whether this was all worth it. He'd get aggravated and discouraged about tending to his ulcers daily, and sometimes talked about giving up. That's when I'd say, “Come on, Dad, keep the faith. I'm not giving up and you shouldn't either.”
Throughout this frustrating time, however, he remained optimistic and fully engaged in his treatments. For example, he turned his walker into a “treatment truck” that carried his wound care supplies, such as dressings, paper tape, and bandage scissors. This increased his self-esteem and showed me that he was committed to his treatment. This was his contribution to the process and kept him engaged in his daily care. Being proactive made him feel as though he was in “the driver's seat,” able to take some control over an overwhelming and unfamiliar situation.
My father has consistently displayed a positive, jovial disposition. He's always researched and developed ways to make a process more efficient and streamlined. This project of creating the treatment truck was fun for him, and he used it several times a day. He didn't think he was ever going to need all those medical supplies.
The ulcers successfully healed after a year of treatment. My father's determination, persistence, bravery, and consistent care had finally paid off.
My father's engagement and active participation in his treatment plan played a major role in his eventual recovery and taught me a valuable lesson: Even when an illness seems too futile to continue treatment, don't surrender. An older person can learn and be empowered to participate in the plan of care.
As an assistant professor of nursing, I often use my father's story as a case study when teaching nursing students about the importance of motivating their patients through a prolonged healing process. Nurses should always provide consistency in their care while staying positive. They should also recognize and utilize their patient's ingenuity to improve unique approaches to care and comfort. As nurses, we need to always remember to provide compassionate care and to advocate for our patients as they embark on their road to recovery.