Keeping Fragile Skin Healthy

November is National Healthy Skin Month, and in its honor, we are happy to present you with help on keeping senior skin healthy.

First of all, it remains true avoiding smoking, and using sunscreen and moisturizers remain important for skin health as people grow older. However, senior skin requires special attention because of the way skin changes as it ages.

Over the years, skin becomes thinner and more fragile. The protective layer of fat below it begins to disappear, causing skin to bruise and tear more easily.

In addition, medications commonly used by older people, such as aspirin; topical and oral corticosteroids, such as prednisone; and anticoagulants (commonly referred to as blood thinners), such as Coumadin, Plavix, and Eliquis, lead to thinning skin. Chronic medical conditions, like diabetes and circulation problems, also result in fragile skin.

For seniors, weakened skin leads to a greater likelihood of skin tears, which can lead to complications such as infection unless they receive proper care.

The following senior skin care tips can help prevent thinning skin, a normal aspect of aging, from becoming a problem.

Create a Safe Environment

  • Make sure there is adequate lighting in all areas.
  • Cushion sharp corners and edges.
  • Ensure walkways are wide and uncluttered.
  • Remove tripping hazards, such as throw rugs.

Protect the Most Vulnerable Areas of the Body

  • Most bruises and tears occur on the arms and lower legs, so it is wise to wear long sleeves and either long pants or knee-high socks.
  • Those especially prone to bruises and skin tears should wear shin guards and padded arm guards.

Treat Skin with Care

Senior skin is prone to dryness (xerosis), so it needs to be handled with care to keep it supple and to prevent itchiness (pruritus), both of which can lead to irritation and tearing.

  • Take showers rather than baths. Baths are more dehydrating.
  • When showering, use warm water rather than hot water.
  • Use unscented, pH balanced soaps to minimize irritation.
  • After bathing, dry skin by patting it rather than rubbing it.
  • While skin is still moist after bathing, apply a thick moisturizing cream. The Mayo Clinic recommends Vanicream, CeraVe or Cetaphil.
  • When bandaging wounds, use paper tape bandages. These are often marked “for sensitive skin.”

With proper care, senior skin can still be healthy skin.

Beacon of LIFE, in Oceanport, NJ, is a government-approved PACE program created to provide seniors, their family, caregivers and professional health care providers the flexibility to meet their health care needs while continuing to live in their community.

Beacon of LIFE maintains an interdisciplinary team of professionals who give each client the coordinated care they need. Our staff specialize in working with older people, and work with each client and their family to develop the most effective plan of care.

We provide a variety of services, including primary care, hospital care, medical specialty services, prescription drugs, nursing home care, emergency services, home care, physical therapy, occupational therapy, adult day care, recreational therapy, meals, dentistry, nutritional counseling, social services, laboratory / X-ray services, social work counseling, and transportation.

Our care and services allow people who would otherwise need to live in a nursing home to live where they want — in their own communities, in their own homes.

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