There is no greater calling than providing for our parents and grandparents, giving them the same benefit of care in their old age as they gave us as children. When granted this responsibility, their skin is one area that requires special care to stay healthy and prevent damage. There are a few common issues that are easy to manage at home with observation and proper care.
Elderly skin changes lead to a loss of sensation and heat regulation and an increase in the risk of infection, shingles and other skin conditions. The loss of natural oils that help retain moisture and the increased fragility of aging skin makes infection and itchiness particularly common and especially harmful. The “itch, scratch, itch, scratch” cycle can lead to serious infections that are slow to heal. Many health conditions that are common in elderly populations carry enhanced risks for skin as well, further heightening the challenges of elderly skin care. All of these factors make it vital that caregivers are attentive to their loved one’s skin when providing care through their twilight years.
The Importance of Bathing Routines
Skin is at greatest risk of injury during washing. It’s also the easiest time to do a visual inspection to catch potential problems early. To prevent damage, keep water lukewarm and limit shower or soaking baths to less than 10 minutes to prevent excessive drying. Use mild soaps that contain a moisturizer and use soft cloths and light pressure during washing to prevent skin tears, or better yet use a foaming, no rinse cleanser such as Welmedix HomeCarePro No-Rinse Cleansing Foam. Check pressure points and extremities for redness, signs of infection, or scratch marks. It’s also worth looking for new marks or moles that may indicate cancerous growths. After a bath or hand-washing, apply moisturizer to the skin. Use heavier creams during winter months when skin is drier and lighter formulas in the summer months.
Pressure ulcers, also known as bed sores, occur when an area of the skin has been subject to pressure without a break for too long. Sometimes, pressure ulcers start externally with broken skin and develop into large open wounds if not treated. Sometimes, they can develop internally and only break through the skin after a significant wound has developed under the skin. Therefore, it’s important to be mindful of the signs of these wounds as they can cause serious infection and take significant amounts of time to heal. Pressure ulcers can occur in two conditions; there is high pressure over a short period of time or there is lower amounts of pressure over an extended period. Look for warm, reddened skin that feels spongy to the touch and does not blanch (turn lighter) when pressed. In people of color, the skin may appear darker or have a bluish tint. If noticed, inform every care contributor to make sure they avoid putting pressure on that area until the signs of damage fade and be sure to alert health care providers as well.
Bed Sores Tips:
- Even if your loved one is mobile, they can experience pressure ulcers. Remind or assist them in shifting several times an hour for prevention.
- Do visual skin cheeks of feet, elbows, the bottom, and the back of legs at least once a day to catch these potential wounds early on.
- Keep the skin moisturized but not wet. Skin that is too wet or too dry is prone to breakdown. Welmedix HomeCarePro Fragile Skin Protective Ointment is a great option to keep skin hydrated.
- Check into specialty pads or cushions to treat reoccurring pressure ulcers. In many cases these products will be covered by insurance or Medicare Part B. Be sure to work with your health care provider to see what product is right for your loved one and what is covered.
General Skin Care Tips
Caring for aging skin doesn’t need to be challenging. A little mindfulness goes a long way. Here are a few more tips that can help ensure your loved one’s skin stays healthy and intact:
- Stay hydrated and eat healthy – drinking enough water and maintaining a balanced diet helps skin stay healthy.
- Keep moving – even loved ones with limited mobility should regularly move within their capabilities. The more the body shifts, the less likely pressure ulcers and infections are to develop.
- If incontinence is an issue, ensure that the skin stays dry and protected. Be sure to tell your loved ones health care provider about the incontinence. They can help determine the cause and guide you in proper management. Moisture retention against the skin is a major cause of rashes, infections and pressure ulcers.