Elder skin requires specialized skin care, including nutritional, lifestyle, and preventative skin care measures.
When you look at your loved one’s hand, you may notice how thin and frail their skin has become. Even when you feel most overwhelmed with caregiving, a glimpse of that delicate skin might remind you why your job is so important. They need you to care for all of their needs, including protecting their fragile skin. Here are five of the most important aspects to consider when caring for the skin of your elderly loved one:
- Shower Tips for Elderly Skin
- Avoid hot baths that can easily damage the skin.
- Don’t shower daily because this can strip away natural body oils.
- Pat skin dry with soft towels, such as microfiber or baby washcloths. Avoid rubbing which can damage fragile skin.
- Use mild soaps specifically designed for elderly skin. A pH-balanced, gentle cleanser is best. A no-rinse cleansing foam specially designed for fragile skin is another great choice such as Welmedix HomeCarePro No-Rinse Foaming Cleanser.
- Be sure to apply moisturizers to help prevent skin dryness and frailty. Use moisturizers specifically designed for elderly skin and apply them while the skin is slightly damp. This will increase the moisturizer’s effectiveness.
- Nutrition Tips for Elderly Skin
- Make sure your loved one drinks enough to stay hydrated, usually six, 8 eight ounce glasses of water-based liquid a day. Good hydration helps skin stay healthy. Also, check with their health care provider if your loved one is on a fluid restricted diet.
- Be sure your loved one eats the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables and takes vitamins if needed. Check with their health care provider and pharmacist to ensure that anything in their diet will not conflict with medications your loved one is taking.
- Lifestyle Tips for Fragile Skin
- Use a home humidifier to keep air moist.
- Encourage your loved one to stay as active as possible to keep muscles and skin strong. A physical therapist can recommend simple exercises that can be done even in a bed or chair.
- Always use clothes that block the sun and wear sunblock when outside, even when it is a cloudy day.
- Tips to Prevent Bed Sores (Pressure Ulcers)
- Reposition your loved one frequently, at least every two hours. Let them change position themselves if they can, or use a trapeze bar or bed linens to help reduce friction as you move them to prevent skin damage.
- Never drag them up in bed. This can cause both friction and shearing injuries and can risk hurting your back as well.
- Use specialized foam or air-filled mattresses to help relieve pressure. Some of these products may be covered by insurance or Medicare Part B. Be sure to get a written order from your loved one’s health care provider and check in advance what is covered. There are very specific guidelines about selection and coverage of support surfaces.
- Do not use inflatable ‘doughnuts’ as these can cause severe pressure damage. Never leave your loved one on a bedpan or prop urinal; that can cause severe skin and deep tissue damage.
- Cushion bony areas by adding padding on hips, knees, and ankles. These can help prevent friction injuries as well.
- Slightly elevate the head of the bed (no more than 30 degrees) or use a hospital bed to minimize friction and strain on the skin. Raising the bed too high can result in too much pressure on the ‘sitting bones’ in the pelvis.
- Use the Fragile Skin System for Adult Diaper Changes
Is your loved one incontinent? Many elderly need to use adult diapers at least occasionally, and the irritation of urine and feces is particularly dangerous for fragile skin. Be sure to talk with their healthcare provider about this so they can determine the underlying cause of incontinence. There are many treatment options that can help. Managing the symptoms of incontinence is a vital part of your loved one’s care. Prevent damaging rashes and infections on your loved one’s skin by following a 3-step skin care system used by nurses everywhere.
- Clean: Wash the skin around the diaper area with a specialized fragile skin cleanser that can be applied directly on the skin and wiped or patted dry. As you clean the skin, carefully inspect it for signs of rash or infection such as skin that is red or patchy in color, or oozing and crusty. Pay special attention to folds in the skin. In women be sure to cleanse front to back to prevent introducing bacteria into the urinary tract. In uncircumcised men be sure to retract the foreskin to cleanse and then be sure the foreskin is put back over the tip of the penis to avoid problems.
- Protect: If the skin looks clear and free of rash or damage, protect skin after patting dry by applying a barrier cream designed for fragile skin, especially in the morning and at bedtime.
- Treat: If skin has redness or rash, treat it with an adult rash cream that has a zinc-oxide base. Before applying, allow skin to air dry thoroughly. Then apply the ointment liberally over the whole rash area of your loved one. Be sure to do this after every exposure to urine or feces and to put a thicker layer on at bedtime. If the rash fails to clear after a couple of days, check with their health care provider so they can check for the possibility of a fungal rash.
Taking care of the skin of your elderly loved one may seem like a difficult task. Don’t worry, after a short time, it will become routine. In the meantime, you might appreciate the fact that some of these tips will help your skin too. Best of all, you will have the peace of mind of knowing you are doing your best to help your loved one stay healthy.