As people grow older, their skin goes through many changes. It becomes thinner as the layer of fat just below the surface begins to break down. They may also experience dry skin that feels almost paper-like. Cuts and other wounds may take longer to heal. Diagnoses like kidney diseases or diabetes can affect skin health. Certain medications may also affect the skin. Older adults may also experience sunspots or skin tags and must pay close attention for signs of other skin conditions such as cancer, eczema, or other complex skin conditions.
Routines to Promote Healthy Skin
There are many things that seniors and their caregivers can do to protect aging skin. Staying hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids or eating foods with high water content will help the skin retain moisture. Also, the use of a humidifier in the home can help reduce skin dryness. Caregivers and Home Health Aides should always use soaps and lotions that are gentle on the skin and free from fragrances or harsh chemicals. Seniors should take warm, not hot, baths or showers and reduce both the duration and frequency of bathing. Usually, a 5–10-minute warm bath or shower every few days is sufficient. Use of a soft cloth is best for the skin. Also, older adults should avoid harsh loofahs or poufs when bathing. Applying lotion immediately after a bath or shower can help keep the skin from drying out.
Protective clothing can shield skin from the sun and wind. Hats, sunglasses, and SPF apparel are all great choices in addition to applying sunscreen to exposed areas. Family caregivers and Home Health Aides must always keep fingernails trimmed and avoid accessories that may puncture aging skin.
Sometimes, despite taking all the proper precautions, intervention from a medical professional may be necessary to manage certain skin conditions seniors are more likely to experience. Skin cancers, like melanoma and carcinomas, or eczema, including stasis dermatitis, are examples of more serious conditions that may require a more involved assessment by a specialist. Some signs to look for may include asymmetrical growths with irregular borders, those with color changes, a diameter larger than that of a pencil eraser, or simply a part of the skin that seems to be evolving or changing. Wounds that will not heal, pressure wounds, also known as bed sores, and infections may also need to be looked at by a doctor or other health care professional. The presence of varicose veins, lack of blood flow, redness, or itching should be brought to the attention of the senior’s doctor. Caregivers should always pay close attention when bathing a senior and watch for any changes in their fragile skin.
Checking all areas of the skin regularly is the best way to prevent any conditions that might develop into more serious conditions. Taking the proper precautions and being proactive about the health of seniors’ skin will help increase the quality of living for people as they age. Working together with healthcare providers is essential to maintaining or improving skincare routines in the elderly.