As our skin ages, it becomes more vulnerable to wide variety of problems. As we age, our skin becomes less supple, thinner, and dryer. It also injures more easily and heals more slowly. Because of this, seniors are much more prone to skin problems ranging from itching, scaling, and mild dryness to grave skin conditions such as infection and ulcerations. Caregivers should understand that severe skin infections or non-healing wounds in the elderly can be very serious or even fatal.
If you are the caregiver for an elderly loved one, skin protection will need to become routine. Preventing serious skin conditions in the elderly not only protects their skin, but can help prevent small problems from becoming larger and more serious. If your loved one exhibits any skin problems, they should be evaluated by their health care professional before any treatment is started.
Here is a list of some of the most common skin conditions that might affect the senior in your life:
- Senile Purpura. These are the purplish spots that appear most often on the arms and legs, due to thinness of the elder person’s skin, and frailty of the capillaries, and blood vessels just below the surface.
- Stasis Dermatitis. This condition is more common in elderly women than men; it is characterized by dry, itchy skin.
- Exfoliative Dermatitis. This is a more severe form of dermatitis than stasis dermatitis, and is characterized by excessive peeling and shedding of skin. This condition is of particular concern in the elderly, because the severe itching can lead to excessive scratching which can in turn lead to infections.
- Skin Infections and/or Infestations. These are bacterial infections and parasitic infestation, such as scabies or ringworm, and are relatively common in the elderly.
- Cancerous and non-cancerous skin growths. Any suspicious growth, or change in an existing mole or growth should be examined by an individual’s health care provider, immediately.
- Viral skin disorders. These include problems such as shingles and herpes zoster.
Tips on maintaining healthy skin as we age
The bottom line is that if skin becomes too dry, it is prone to cracking and dermatitis – which allows for penetration of bacteria that can result in infection. Some skin tips for the elderly include:
- Avoiding hot baths and frequent showers
- Using only mild soaps, and gently applying moisturizers to the skin after every shower or bath
- Caregivers must take extra care to help their elderly loved one avioid developing bedsores, particularly for those who are incontinent or bed-ridden. These individuals need to be turned frequently, to avoid pressure-sensitive ulcers. And it is imperative that absorbent products and catheters be changed frequently.
- Never smoking or quitting smoking, as cigarette smoke has been found to be highly damaging to skin.
- Making sunblock a regular part of the skin care routine.
- Staying properly hydrated by drinking enough liquids. This is important since dehydrated skin is also vulnerable to an assortment of problems.
- Using a room humidifier during the winter and in dry climates
- Avoiding hot and dry places, such as saunas
About R.O.S Therapy Systems: R.O.S. Therapy Systems began as a backyard project in 2010. Scott Silknitter was searching for tools to help his mother care for his father, Roger Owen Silknitter, during a 25-year fight with Parkinson’s disease and dementia. That project became a personal mission to help all family caregivers. From family caregiver training and activity books to mobile apps to activity systems, R.O.S. has grown to become a single-source provider of informational “how to’s” and a growing provider of adaptive tools for the millions of husbands, wives, children, and family members that become caregivers.
Common sense advice and instruction based on proven principles of communication, engagement, and daily living are the heart of everything R.O.S. offers for family caregivers. Improving quality of life for caregivers is our mission, and designing everything for a family caregiver struggling with a loved one is the starting point. Whether it is dementia, diabetes, Parkinson’s, ALS, stroke, visual impairment, developmental disabilities, or any other issue that forces someone to care for a loved one, R.O.S. and its Caregiving 101 program are here to help.