Home > Aging, Caregivers, Medical issues, Strategies > Skin Care For the Aging

Skin Care For the Aging

Image courtesy graur razvan ionut, http://www.freedigitalphotos.netIt’s not unusual for people who are advanced in years to develop skin that is quite fragile.  Some of the problems typically seen with aging skin include bruising, excoriation, fungal infection, and dry skin.  These problems are not at all unique to those who have dementia.  However, those who are cognitively impaired may forget how to take good care of aging skin, or may neglect environmental hazards that can cause injuries.  Or they may have difficulty completing more complex tasks related to skin care.

When our skin is young and healthy, we have a layer of fatty tissue under our skin that serves to protect the blood vessels from damage.  As we get older, however, this fatty layer often becomes thinner, leaving the person at risk for increased bruising from even a relatively light bump.  If the person is too thin, or is poorly nourished, this can make matters even more problematic.  Yet another factor to be considered here is that many people of this age group take medications to thin the blood, making them even more prone to bruising.  The areas most frequently affected by bruising are the arms and legs.  Here are some tips that can be of help for a person who is prone to, or at risk of, bruising:

1.  Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.

2.  Protect the shins and arms with special garments and aids created for the purpose.  This doesn’t mean to wear padding like a football player.  But a long-term care facility will often have a tube-like apparatus made out of soft cloth, that can be slipped over a person’s arms to protect them from accidental injury.  Recently, I have seen a number of attractive patterns for similar knitted garmens.

3.  Cushion wheelchair leg and arm supports.  When a person sits in a wheelchair for long periods of time, they will often rub their legs against the metal parts of the chair, and can injure themselves as a result.

4.  Remove furniture with sharp corners, or put padded protectors on them such as you might find for a young child.

5.  Clear away clutter from walkways, that might cause a person to trip or stumble.

6.  Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun.

Excoriation and skin breakdown can also occur with the aging.  Moisture can become trapped in skin folds caused by wrinkles or when the person has lost either weight or muscle tone.  (For example, under the breasts or the groin, or between the toes.)  This can cause the skin to become reddened and sensitive.  Another problem sometimes seen with these folks is that they have difficulty drying themselves off after bathing, or they may be incontinent and sit for a long period of time in wet or poorly-fitting clothing.  Some may have contracted limbs, and moisture may collect in these places.  Skin that becomes irritated due to collection of moisture in this way can become itchy and sore, and may even become infected.  Here are some strategies to help prevent skin irritation due to moisture:

1.  Be sure to clean and dry all skin folds with special care — especially under arms, breasts, groin, and toes.

2.  If the person has an episode of incontinence, be sure to clean and dry all affected skin, and apply a barrier ointment to prevent infection.

3.  Be sure to change incontinence pads regularly, and often.

4.  Wearing clothing made from natural fabrics can discourage sweating.

5.  Be sure to wash your hands before caring for the person’s skin, and wear gloves if handling body fluids.

Those parts of the body that are most prone to irritation due to moisture can be at special risk for fungal infection.  These types of organisms just love places that are warm, dark, and moist.  Areas most at risk for this type of infection include the skin folds under the breasts, in the groin, and around the genitals.  Such areas appear reddened and irritated, and can become itchy and painful.  If such an irritation occurs, it can be treated in the following manner:

1.  Clean and dry area thoroughly

2.  Keep skin folds free of moisture

3.  Wear clothing that allows the skin to breathe

4.  Follow good hygiene practices; wash your hands and don’t share towels

5.  Talk to the person’s doctor or pharmacist about a good anti-fungal cream.  There are several good ones available over the counter.

6.  Use a barrier cream to prevent problems due to incontinence.

As we get older, our skin has fewer oil secreting glands and sweat glands, which can cause us to have dry skin.  This can be uncomfortable, and can be a persistent problem for the aging.  Some other factors that can be associated with dry skin include cold dry weather, daily use of some soaps, frequent bathing, nutritional deficiency, some underlying health conditions, and some medications.  Some tips to prevent dry skin include:

1.  Avoiding excessive bathing and the use of harsh soap

2.  Try the use of special soap-free cleansers

3.  Use water that is warm, but not too hot

4.  Be sure to drink plenty of fluids

5.  Rub damp skin with moisturizer after bathing

6.  Use bath oils and emollients (be careful not to slip in the bathtub)

7.  Pat your skin dry, instead of rubbing it

Be sure to inspect the skin daily, whether your own or that of someone you care for.  Look for signs of bruising, skin tears, reddened areas, blisters, or rashes.  If you see any new or irregular moles or sunspots, be sure to point them out to the doctor.

Read the original article that inspired me here.

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  1. April 10, 2013 at 11:33 AM

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