Vail Daily column: Skin issues for the elderly
June 25, 2013
Skin care here in the mountains should be a concern for everyone, but it is particularly important for seniors. Every person's skin is different; it can be light or dark, wrinkled or smooth, sprinkled with aging spots or clear in color, covered with bruises or relatively healthy in complexion. All this brings me to today's topic, "Skin Issues for the Elderly." This topic is truly important as the skin is the first defense in fighting off many harmful enemies to our body, and as we age this defense mechanism begins to yield to those enemies.
The skin protects us from outside influences, such as the sun, and from internal invasion from bacteria. As we get older, this wonderful organ (and largest organ in our body) does get tired of working so hard and begins to weaken.
This weakening is evident in several conditions:
Senile Purpura. Purple spots on the arms and legs that are the result of a thinning of the person's skin allowing capillaries and blood vessels to become more visible.
Stasis Dematitis. Mostly in women and identified by dry, itchy skin.
Exfoliative Dematitis. A more severe form of stasis dermatitis where peeling or shedding of the skin exists, which can lead to very severe itching and possible infections.
Skin Infections. Bacterial parasitic infections; such as scabies or ringworms can exist.
Skin Growths. Cancerous or non-cancerous.
Viral Skin Disorders. Shingles or herpes zoster.
Source: The previous points were paraphrased from Parentgiving, "Seniors and Skin Health: Preventing serious skin conditions in the elderly."
Elders can ward off the onset of some of those nasty skin issues, as well as treat those that have begun.
Below are some tips for dealing with common skin issues:
Bathing. Hot water is not good for the elderly as it washes away the protective oils that are in the skin naturally. Use warm water.
Use mild soaps that contain some form of moisturizers. Apply moisturizers immediately after bathing to lock in moisture.
Don't bathe every day, but rather two-three times per week.
Wear more cotton clothing vs. synthetic fabrics as cotton breathes better and allows the skin to also breathe.
If your loved one is noticing that their skin is becoming more and more itchy, attempt to track down the origin. Meanwhile, apply moisturizers to help with that dryness.
Keep your loved one from smoking.
Drink plenty of liquids, especially water.
Always wear sun block when outdoors.
Stay away from saunas and other extremely dry areas.
As always, if something unusual begins to occur with your loved one's skin, don't hesitate to contact his/her physician. Being proactive is always the best medicine.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He can be contacted at http://www.visitingangels.com/comtns or 970-328-5526.