AGE-RELATED SKIN CHANGES

Our skin changes as we age. A baby's skin has a much thicker fat layer and a much thinner epidermis. Babies have smooth, soft skin partly because they have a much higher percentage of hyaluronic acid, a compound capable of retaining 1000x its weight in water. In addition, babies regenerate the strateum corneum (the outermost layer where new skin cells are formed) in as little as 14 days. This same regeneration process takes up to 37 days in a 50 year old.

As our skin ages, it loses much of the underlying tissue that made it as soft and supple as a child. Over time, collagen (“the glue” that holds elastin together) depletes from the dermis. Elastin, a protein comprised of amino acids, helps the skin coil and recoil like a spring. Elastin isn’t normally made after puberty and your skin begins to age. Collagen depletion makes our skin thinner and less supple and causes skin to sag and lose its resiliency. In addition, as we age, decreased blood flow to our skin results in slower healing.

Finally, for post menopausal women, skin produces less protective oils so our skin dries out more easily. As you get older your skin becomes less able to protect itself from damage, and it heals more slowly from cuts or burns. As you age it becomes more important to take care of your skin.

An elder’s skin can be more sensitive to clothing fabrics (especially wool), soaps and detergents, and other items encountered in everyday living. Finding out the cause of the itching or rash and getting rid of the product may help reduce the itchiness.

You may have noticed that the elderly tend to bruise more easily; this can be from the skin becoming thinner and losing the fat padding under the skin. Thus, blood vessels are less protected from injury. An injury inflicted by mild trauma—for example, bumping against a table or being hit by a tennis ball—may result in a substantial bruise. Bruises that appear for no apparent reason may indicate a bleeding disorder. Anti-clotting medications may cause bleeding under the skin. You would need to check with a physician to make sure that there isn’t a bleeding/medication issue.

Our Dad recently had many skin tears all over his body and they caused bruising. Our doctor took one look at him and told me that he had a Vitamin B deficiency. She instructed me to get some liquid (because of his g-tube) Vitamin B complex. While at GNC I also found some Vitamin E. We began giving the additional vitamins and within one week his skin began to look much better and the tearing and bruising stopped. It’s amazing what a few vitamins can do.

GENERAL SKIN CARE FOR SENIORS

Elderly skin care will always include caring for dry skin. Treating dry skin isn’t hard; it just requires astute attention and getting in the habit of taking care of it. Here are some practical guidelines on how you do it.

Keep the Skin Clean: Always keep the skin clean. This applies especially to the feet, groin, armpits and under the breasts of women. People who sweat should wear loose, absorbent clothing that will wick the wetness away. If skin stays wet too long, it can become prone to fungal infection, rashes and even become extremely dry.

Avoid hot baths or too frequent showering/bathing. This will dry skin out further. Bathing every other day is recommended if the elder doesn’t get physically dirty. My Dad gets a shower 2 to 3 days a week and gets bed baths in-between when necessary.

Find a product that doesn’t have chemical perfumes and chemical dyes as they may contain harsh detergents that can cause a rash or dry out the skin. We use a baby wash for our Dad.

There’s a pretty cool product on the market, which helps you give a bed bath. You heat the pre-moistened cloths in the microwave and use them to wash your elder. There is also a shampoo cap, which you put on the person’s head and scrub away. You don’t have to rinse their hair or body with either of these products. These products can be purchased at most local drug stores or you can get them on-line. Use the term rinse free bath cloths and you will come up with many choices of products and brands.

Keep the Skin Hydrated: Keeping dry skin hydrated can be the best way to avoid potential problems like cracking, pain and itchiness (which we discussed above). After showering or bathing, don’t dry them off too much, a little bit of water left on the skin will help seal in the body's natural moisture, and help skin be more comfortable. Next apply a light coating of a skin conditioner, body lotion, or moisturizer. If your elder goes out and about during the day, I recommend a moisturizer with sunscreen.

A really easy way to moisturize the body immediately after the shower, while still wet get a spritzer and fill it with non-mineral-based baby oil. Spray their skin with the oil and towel dry. Just enough of the baby oil will stay on their skin and they won’t be a big oil slick.

The Feet: As we focus on elderly skin care, let's not forget one of the most important (yet often overlooked) area of the body, the feet. The older a person gets, the more prone the feet become to problems. Corns, calluses, warts, dry skin, fungal infections, ingrown toenails, blisters and other foot deformities are common. Look for these as you clean the feet. Proper care of your feet, including regular checkups by a doctor, can alleviate most of these problems.

Clean feet thoroughly with warm water, and dry them completely. Remember to get between the toes! Thoroughly massage lotion or moisturizer into the feet. Trim the nails, and not right next to the nail bed. Round sharp edges with a file.

Always have your elder wear comfortable shoes, even around the house. This protects the feet from injury and to give them a sense of feeling that they are dressed for the day and are ready to conquer the world.

Author's Bio: 

I am a child of 2 parents who have both had severe strokes and became totally bedridden. The four children have decided to move our parents to Texas into my sister's home. We pay for 24 hour care and have a wealth of knowledge that we would like to share.

I have written a few e-books from lessons that we have learned that can't be found anywhere on the net. For example I have written an e-book that gives a 27 detailed step-by-step procedure on how to change an adult diaper on a bedridden person. The money earned by selling my e-books and e-forms will go to cover Dad's care.

If you enjoyed this excerpt from my e-book Skin Care for Seniors you may go to www.secretsofeldercare.com and receive a free copy of the complete e-book by registering for my newsletter.

Thank you, Mary Davis