Skin Care for the Elderly
Skin is the outermost part of our body. It protects us from harmful external stimuli and bacterial invasion. Proper skin care is important for our physical and mental health. Skin infection in a diabetic patient can lead to the serious complication of gangrene. Itchiness, a very common problem among the elderly, can be so irritating as to affect mental health. Therefore, the elderly and their caregivers should know about proper skin care.
Cleanliness - Keep the skin clean. Bathe daily in the summer, cleaning especially areas like the armpit, the underparts and the feet. Sweaty individuals should wear loose clothing that can absorb sweat to prevent fungal infection. Do not wear nylon socks or plastic sports shoes if you are prone to fungal infection of the feet. Wear sandals or leather shoes.
Itchiness - With aging, oily secretions of the skin decrease, leading to dry skin and itchiness. Improper skin care such as scratching or using hot water for stimulation only make it worse. If the skin becomes broken, there may be infection or inflammation.
Dry Skin - To manage itchiness due to dry skin, apply moisturizing cream frequently, especially after bathing when the skin is still moist. Bathing oil can also be used but you must be careful about slipping. If you use a heater, maintain humidity in the room; choose heating tubes instead of radiating heaters. Also, itchiness may be worsened by the stimulation of woolen clothes.
Bathing - Hot water can wash away all oily secretions, therefore, the elderly should only use warm water, and avoid excess cleansing. Mild soap or bathing gels should be used, or perhaps only applied to local areas. The rest of the body should be flushed with warm water only. Dry weather makes the itching worse. So, in winter, unless there has been sweating, the elderly do not need to bathe every day. Instead, bathe on alternate days or even every three days.
Warning Signs - If itchiness persists despite the above measures, or if the skin appears abnormal, consult a doctor for advice. Look for sudden changes of a mole, a would that does not heal, abnormal growths, severe itching and peeling of the skin or severe pain. These may be signs of a serious illness (like cancer) and should not be ignored.