The skin is the human body’s largest organ, and caring for it properly is an important aspect of maintaining overall health. As with most facets of physical care, however, this begins to complicate with age: Studies have shown that skin can become weaker and more susceptible to dryness, itchiness and imperfections as early as the age of 40. When it comes to senior care, the maintenance of skin health is an important aspect that should not be overlooked.
Why Skin Care is Important for Seniors
We all need to take care of our skin if we want to reduce the risk of skin disorders, have a healthy complexion, and maintain an overall younger appearance. So, why is skin care especially important for the elderly? Here are a few reasons:
- As we age, our skin becomes more fragile. The epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin, loses its elasticity over the years. The layers beneath also begin to thin out due to a decrease in collagen (the protein that holds connective tissue together) and a loss of fatty tissue that occurs naturally with age. This leads to the skin becoming weaker, thinner, and even more transparent.
- Bruises also occur more easily. Blood vessels become weaker and fat tissue diminishes with time, which can lead to bruising from even the slightest bumps or injuries.
- Skin heals slower with age. The natural slowing of the body’s processes over time means that skin cells are replaced at a slower rate. This causes injuries and bruises to heal much more slowly.
- Skin begins to sag and wrinkle. Throughout one’s lifetime, exposure to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays can lead to skin become slack and sagging easier later in life. On top of this, the natural effect of gravity’s pull can slowly affect skin’s firmness over the years.
- Dryness becomes more common with time. Our skin is kept lubricated and soft through the natural oils our bodies produce. With age, these sebaceous oil glands start to decrease in number and strength, leading to dry, itchy skin.
- Bedsores are more of a risk. Despite their name, bedsores don’t just occur in bed; sitting in a couch or chair for too long can also lead to the development of these skin ulcers. For older people with reduced mobility, being bed or couch-ridden means moving often is difficult. This greatly increases the risk of bedsores.
- In the winter months, dryness is even more common. Known as “winter itch”, this condition is caused by cold air drying out the skin, causing redness, itchiness, and irritation. Eldercare is especially important during the winter season, and proper skin care is no exception.
With all of these potential risks involved in the skin’s weakening with age, it becomes clear why special attention needs to be given to elderly loved ones’ skin health. So, what steps can be taken to support the well-being of a senior’s skin? Read on to find out.
What to avoid:
- Smoking. Along with numerous other health problems, smoking cigarettes can lead to skin aging faster. The damaging effects of tobacco consumption deplete the skin of its nutrients from the inside, causing saggier skin, more visible wrinkles (especially around the mouth), and age spots.
- Excessive Sunlight. As mentioned earlier, the sun’s rays can greatly affect complexion and skin health, causing more visible wrinkles, decreasing elasticity of the skin, and increasing the risk of developing skin cancer. Elders should avoid exposure to direct sunlight as often as possible (especially during the summer months) and wear sunscreen, clothing that covers the arms and legs, and a hat that provides shade to the face and neck. Sunglasses are also important, as squinting caused by sunlight can lead to wrinkles around the eyes.
- Excessive Washing. While regular bathing is an important aspect of senior care to maintain proper hygiene, showering too often or using harsh soaps can lead to degrading of the skin’s natural protective oils. Seniors should bathe and shower only in warm water – steam and water that is too hot can dry out the skin, causing redness and itchiness. However, it’s important to remember that certain bath oils can make bath surfaces more slippery, increasing the risk of injury in the tub.
- Tanning Salons and Saunas. Tanning beds can have the same harmful effects of the sun’s rays, and the steam of a sauna can cause dehydration of the skin in the elderly.
- Staying In Bed. Remaining in the same position for too long can lead to bedsores caused by pressure to the skin. If an elderly person is bedridden and cannot change positions on their own, they should be moved by a family member or a professional caregiver every few hours.
What to Get More Of:
- Proper Nutrition. A diet rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can help the skin maintain its integrity against the effects of aging, leading to a healthier-looking complexion and faster healing of wounds and bruises. Seniors should incorporate berries and green veggies into their everyday diet, as they contain essential vitamins to help maintain healthy skin. Healthy fats from foods like avocados, salmon, and nuts are also important.
- Humidity. During the winter months especially, when most seniors turn on the heat in their homes, the air becomes dry and can lead to chapping and cracking of the skin. Getting a humidifier can help prevent a loss of skin hydration by replacing the moisture in the air.
- Moisture. A gentle skin moisturizer should be applied daily to the face, arms, neck, and legs. This helps the skin keep its softness and stay moist, which is especially important for the elderly, as the skin’s natural oils lose their ability to prevent dryness over the years.
- Hydration. Possibly the most important item on this list, hydration is imperative to maintaining healthy skin as well as a senior’s overall well-being. 64% of skin is made up of water, so even a slight loss of hydration can have devastating effects on skin health. Dryness is often caused by dehydration, so it’s important to make sure the skin stays hydrated throughout the day. Drinking water also helps flush out toxins from the body, which can have a positive effect on an elderly person’s complexion and lead to more youthful, healthy-looking skin.
While there are many steps that need to be taken to ensure one’s skin remains healthy, seniors are especially prone to skin imperfections. This means that proper care and attention must be given at all times. If you or a loved one need help with caring for a senior in Montreal, Complete Care Coordination can help; having a health-care professional with extensive experience in senior caregiving is a great way to ensure your elderly loved ones get the help they need to maintain proper skin health.
Feel free to contact us for a free consultation if you need a senior caregiver in Montreal.