The skin is the largest organ on the body and is often a predictor of general health and wellness. Depending on the life led, skin can undergo changes over the course of a lifetime, including reactions from sun exposure, weight gain and loss, smoking and diet.
The most common type of skin damage in the elderly is UV damage. A lifetime spent outdoors working or intentionally tanning in the summer months can cause skin to sag and wrinkle in old age. Pre-cancerous or cancerous types of skin cancer can also pop up during the senior years as a result of DNA damage done to the skin cells by the sun.
While old skin damage usually can’t be undone, new damage can be prevented by using sunscreen when outside for longer than 15 minutes. Additionally, long thin sleeves and a hat can prevent sun exposure. Regular checks by dermatologists for changing moles can also catch skin cancer while it is still treatable.
Dry or itchy skin
As elders age, their skin loses oils it naturally produces to keep lubricated. After a sunburn or in winter months when the heater is going, their skin can dry out, causing uncomfortable flaking and even cracking. This can be treated in several ways. Lubricating jelly like Vaseline can help lock in moisture. A local humidifier can be useful during winter months to keep the air at a comfortable level. If the dryness is severe or accompanied by eczema, seniors can consult with a dermatologist for a strong topical steroid.
For seniors who are inactive, bedsores can be a potential complaint. They form in the pressure spots where people sit in chairs or lie in bed. Those with poor circulation as a result of diabetes or another illness are especially at risk for bedsores.
Caregivers providing elderly care for bedridden seniors should turn them frequently to reduce pressure and keep them comfortable. Any existing bedsores should be treated.
The loss of fatty tissue between the skin and muscle means that seniors are at risk for bruising. Those on blood thinners may also find themselves more likely to bruise. While bruises can’t always be prevented, especially in active seniors, there are some changes that can be made. Opening up narrow walkways and putting padding on sharp furniture corners can make it safer for seniors to navigate their homes.
Allergic reactions can develop over the course of a lifetime, so soap or fragrance that didn’t bother your senior when they were younger may now cause a rash or itching. Thankfully, there are more fragrance-free options for soaps, detergents and lotions than there used to be, so treating skin allergies doesn’t have to be difficult. Check with your senior’s doctor before taking any kind of antihistamine as some are not recommended for seniors.
The skin can be treated as an early warning sign of several diseases, like diabetes or kidney failure. Monitor skin health carefully to improve comfort levels and keep your senior happy.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering hiring Senior Care in Jericho, NY, please call the caring staff at Companion Home Care of Long Island. Senior Home Care serving Suffolk, Nassau and Queens Counties. Turn your questions into answers. Call Today (631) 884-0005
Dorothy’s core expertise includes an extensive background of more than 38 years, focusing on Home Care, Senior Care and operating a successful in-home care agency.
In her spare time she enjoys her 5 grandchildren, gardening, skiing and competition 8-Ball.
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