What is a Skin condition?
A skin condition is when your skin is affected by a disorder. According to the Cleveland Clinic, “some skin conditions may be genetic, while lifestyle factors may cause others.” There are different skin conditions; some can be less severe than others. Causes and symptoms can vary, depending on what type of skin condition you may have.
Awareness of skin conditions is essential, especially among older adults. As we age, our skin goes through many changes, and you may even notice your skin becoming thin, losing elasticity and moisture. Health in Aging states that with age, the skin “bruises easily and can take a long time to heal when cut.” This can also be due to a weakened immune system.
Common skin conditions among older adults include dryness and itching, bruising, shingles, skin tags, pressure injuries and bruises. Read on for tips on how we care for elderly skin conditions.
How we care for elderly skin conditions
At Helping Hands, we help our customers maintain their independence no matter what condition they are living with. Our live-in carers are trained to provide the support you need when needed.
Many skin conditions can be treated with antibiotics, moisturisers, antihistamines and vitamins. If you are worried, you must seek advice from your GP, who will prescribe you the right treatment. Treatment and care depend on the type of skin condition you may have. However, we believe that prevention is always the best medication and here are a few ways we can help.
With good hygiene, there is less risk of infections and skin conditions. So, it is necessary to maintain personal hygiene to prevent bacteria from building up on your skin.
As we age, we lose moisture in our skin, which is more prone to dryness. So, it is best to shower or bathe using warm water rather than hot. Avoid fragranced products on the skin, like soap, as these can impact your skin. There are soap substitutes available, which your GP can prescribe. Most importantly, moisturise.
If you have difficulty with personal care, such as bathing, our carers can help. They can ensure the water temperature is suitable, moisturise your skin to avoid getting dry and check you are cleaning yourself properly to prevent infections from developing.
Avoid sitting or lying down for too long
Sitting or lying in one position for an extended period can cause pressure injuries. According to the NHS, these can “develop when a large amount of pressure is applied to an area of skin over a short period of time. They can also occur when less pressure is applied over a long period of time.” Usually over a bony prominence, “people over 70 years old are particularly vulnerable to pressure ulcers, as they are more likely to have mobility problems and ageing skin.”
Pressure injuries can be challenging to treat and lead to an infection, so prevention is essential. To avoid getting pressure injuries, you need to change your position regularly. We understand that we sometimes forget, so our carers can remind you to get up and move around. If you struggle with mobility or are bedridden, our carers can also help move your position to prevent pressure injuries from developing.
Keep your skin hydrated
Increasing your fluid intake can help keep your skin moist and lead to complications. So, make sure you are drinking plenty of water. You can also have squash or fruit juices if you like a bit more flavour. Moisture-rich foods such as jelly and yoghurt will also help with hydration. You can even purchase jelly balls specifically designed for older adults with dehydration. Our carers can check your fluid intake and ensure you have a glass of water by your side.
Limit sun exposure
Sunlight can help boost your mood and vitamin D. Too much exposure can impact your skin, leading to sunburn and skin cancer (melanoma). The NHS states melanoma “is a type of skin cancer that can spread to other organs in the body” and “exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is thought to cause most melanomas.”
Healthcare professionals recommend 5-10 minutes of sunshine for older adults, two to three times a week. If you are in the sun for an extended period, our carers will ensure your skin is protected by putting on sunscreen. It is also recommended to wear protective clothing such as loose-fitted clothes and long-sleeved shirts, with trousers or long skirts.
For severe skin conditions, contact your GP
If you are worried about a skin condition, contact your GP. Skin conditions like shingles may need medical attention. Most cases last around two to four weeks and treatment includes taking paracetamol to ease the pain, keeping the rash clean and dry to reduce the risk of infection, wearing loose-fitting clothing and using a cool compress a few times a day (NHS).
If you notice any new moles or changes in existing moles, contact your GP, as this could be a symptom of melanoma.
Skin Conditions FAQ
What causes elderly skin problems?
The cells in your skin constantly renew themselves, but “with ageing, this process of cell renewal slows down” and “the supporting structures and elasticity decrease with age, leading to sagging skin and wrinkles”, states Health Hub. This is also why your skin becomes thin, dry and more transparent.
Other factors that can cause elderly skin problems include lifestyle, diet, skincare routine and hydration levels. So, making changes in your daily routine can prevent skin conditions from developing on your body.
How do you treat skin conditions for the elderly?
Skin conditions are usually treated via medication. So, seeking advice from a healthcare professional before treating your condition is essential. Prevention isn’t always possible, but it is the best medication. Preventing skin conditions includes keeping hydrated, wearing sunscreen and moisturising your skin.
What Vitamins are good for the skin?
Plenty of vitamins are helpful for the skin, including vitamins A, C, D and E. However, it is essential to seek advice from your GP before taking vitamin supplements, as too much can cause more harm than good.
Verywell Health argues that vitamin C is an “incredible antioxidant, anti-inflammatory nutrient” that “is known to improve skin tone and texture, hydrate the skin and reduce signs of ageing.” Vitamin C is available in vegetables and fruits; you can also get supplements. Vitamins A and E are also valuable antioxidants that benefit the skin.
Sunlight is the best way to absorb vitamin D. However, Age UK says, “people over 65 are at risk of not getting enough vitamin D, especially when we’re not exposed to much sun.” It is “found in a small number of foods including oily fish, eggs, margarine, yoghurt and fortified breakfast cereals.” You can also get supplements.
How can I improve my older skin?
Making diet and lifestyle changes can help. In a nutshell, here are a few ways you can improve your skin.
- Avoid long periods of sun exposure
- Keep hydrated
- Moisturise daily
- Shower or bathe with warm water
- Incorporate vitamin-enriched foods into your diet
Page reviewed by Kathryn Mahon, Regional Clinical Lead on April 17, 2023