Many caregivers find themselves running ragged trying to keep up with things like medication, proper nutrition, doctor appointments, and incontinence. Often things like skin care do not get the consideration they require simply because caregivers do not have the time, energy, or know how to add one more thing to their plate.
However, skin care is an important aspect of overall health, and something every caregiver should consider. Let’s take a look at why skin care is so important, the risks associated with impaired skin health, and what caregivers can do to improve the skin of those they care for:
Factors which increase risk for skin damage include:
- Age. Elderly people are at higher risk for problems with their skin because they naturally produce less sebum. Sebum is a lipid-based substance that protects the skin from wetness, acting as a moisture barrier. In an incontinent individual, this is important for maintaining skin integrity. When a senior’s skin has prolonged exposure to urine and feces, and less natural defense, it is likely to experience breakdown, which can lead to discomfort and infection. Using a product, ointment, skin protectant to help keep skin healthy can eliminate a lot of potential problems.
- Immobility. Many caregivers are aiding loved ones or patients who are immobile, bed ridden, or in a wheelchair. The inability to move certain parts of the body without assistance puts an individual at higher risk for skin damage. Typically being in the same position for too long puts too much pressure on blood vessels and restricts blood flow, which can lead to pressure sores and other skin damage. The best solution is to adjust the individual at least once every two hours, and use pillows, cushions, and other devices to relieve pressure.
- Malnourishment. Many seniors do not get the nutrients they need. This can be due to mobility issues, suppressed appetite due to medications, trouble with teeth and jaws, social issues, etc. However, when the body is not properly nourished, the skin often shows the first signs. This can lead to skin breakdown, irritation, and infection.
- Chronic conditions. Many elderly have chronic conditions. Having a chronic condition, such as diabetes or artery disease, puts skin at higher risk for damage. Such conditions prevent areas of the body from receiving proper blood flow and nutrition, which leaves the skin at risk. A good diet, weight management, smoking cessation, exercise, as well as proper skin care can help.
- Incontinence. Urinary incontinence or bowel incontinence, causes the skin to have prolonged exposure to urine and feces which contain ammonia and bacteria, which can lead to irritation and infection. Additionally, the moisture from incontinence can lead to compromised skin integrity as well. The best solution is to use absorbent products and change them frequently. With each change, clean the skin using a pH balanced, no rinse cleanser.
- Mental disability. When a seniors has a mental disability from conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, they may not be able to recognize skin damage and take the proper steps towards treatment and prevention. Caregivers should do a daily assessment of the skin, and take the steps for prevention, such as using a cleanser, moisturizer, and protectant to give the skin the best chance at skin health.