A commonly overlooked area of senior health is proper skin care. Skin is our first line of defense from toxins, bacteria, and injury. As we age, our skin becomes thinner and more susceptible to scratches, bruising, and infection. It is critical for longevity and high quality of life to treat our skin well, and not just for aesthetic purposes. For seniors, products that once worked might not have the same effect that they used to. This is why extra care and sustained attention must be paid to proper skin treatment.
The Risks of Poor Skin Care
In addition to being at heightened risk of contracting skin cancer, seniors are more likely to develop the following conditions without proper care:
Senile Purpura presents as purplish spots that appear most often on the arms and legs due to the thinness of the elder person’s skin and frailty of the capillaries and blood vessels.
Exfoliative Dermatitis is characterized by excessive peeling and shedding of skin. It is of particular concern in the elderly because the severe itching can lead to broken skin and subsequent infections.
Stasis Dermatitis is more common in elderly women than men and is characterized by dry, itchy skin.
To prevent skin infections, help your residents with the following tips and guidelines to promote overall skin health. Depending on the individual, you may need to assist them in practicing these routines. However, always check with the primary care physician or the resident’s dermatology specialist before making any changes to their medical, nutritional, or overall health care plan.
In order to prevent or cure dry skin, it’s important to make sure each of your residents consume enough water and other fluids. Eight glasses of water per day is a standard recommendation. On hot days, be sure your residents take in more to compensate for sweat loss. Also be mindful of environments with excessively dry air. Utilizing a humidifier can be helpful if air conditions are too dry. In addition, applying moisturizers, lotions, creams, or other beneficial ointments on a daily basis is important to keep skin healthy and reverse the effects of aging. Incorporating this as part of their daily routine, with the approval of the attending physician, can help keep residents’ skin strong and less likely to peel, crack, or dry out.
Enforce Safety Precautions
Sun protection should be one of the highest priorities to promote healthy skin. The sun’s rays make our skin age quicker; this effect is known by dermatologists as photoaging. Be sure to keep your residents out of direct sun exposure between 10 A.M. and 2 P.M. Keep them covered when outside; have them dressed in pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and long sleeves. Sunglasses help reduce fine lines around our eyes and even protect the eyes themselves. Utilize a broad spectrum sunscreen that offers a protection of SPF 30 (or higher). Verify that the sunscreen is water resistant to avoid running off from sweat. Even keeping them in shady areas will help reduce the risk of sun overexposure.
Additionally, the skin begins to wrinkle over time. Environmental factors, like ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun, can make the skin less elastic. Contaminants like cigarette smoke and smog can increase the stress put on your skin. If there are residents who do smoke, educating them and even their families (if involved) about the all-encompassing dangers and effects of smoking/tobacco use is beneficial to encourage a change toward healthier habits.
Staying ahead of health concerns before they progress is critical. Check your resident’s skin at least once a month for signs of cancer. Skin cancer is rarely painful, therefore the resident likely won’t complain or indicate there is a problem. Look for changes such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, a bleeding mole, or moles/growths that appear oddly-colored, asymmetrical, or have irregular edges.
The skin benefits from proper nutrition just like the rest of our body. This is why everybody, especially seniors, should eat foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These foods are immensely beneficial to an overall healthy body and healthy skin. Foods rich in Vitamin A, B, C, E, and K are especially important, including melons, berries, walnuts, salmon, and avocados. Click here to learn more about creating a full nutritional plan for your residents.
It’s also advisable to avoid foods with excessive sugar. Simple carbohydrates such as refined sugars, high fructose corn syrup, and white bread products cause insulin levels to spike which causes inflammation throughout the body. During inflammation, our bodies break down collagen and elastin, causing wrinkles and sagging in our skin.
This is also why everyone needs to be on the same page with the individualized healthcare plan. The attending dietician will adjust the resident’s diet and provide supplemental options according to the medical needs of the individual.
Vigorously scrubbing skin or washing with water that is too hot can damage skin and cause irritation. Utilizing a mild, fragrance-free bath soap is ideal to prevent irritation, especially for residents with more sensitive skin. Follow the cleaning and hygiene protocol according to your specific facility, and ask for further guidance if a question or issue arises concerning a particular resident or their circumstances.
Maintaining good overall health is one of the best ways to ensure healthy skin. Getting enough sleep provides your residents’ bodies time to rest and renew themselves. It is also advised that you have your residents participate in regular exercise to promote good cardiovascular health, which helps cuts down on the inflammation.
Assisted Living Education is dedicated to providing the highest quality education and continuing education for those in the elder care field. We offer the most in-depth certification and online training programs available with instructors possessing years of real-world and research-backed knowledge. Learn more about RCFE certifications, online training, or visit our contact page to reach us directly.