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Eldercare 101: Enhancing Quality of Life Through Effective Caregiving that Nurtures the Mind, Body & Spirit
By Bryna Smith

Part 1: Promoting Skin Integrity in the Elderly
A major aspect of eldercare is in the maintenance of healthy skin. Healthy skin is indispensable for human life.

Major functions of the body's largest organ, the skin, include:

  • Protection from UV light, disease, and injuries
  • Promotion of bone health
  • Temperature and fluid regulation

Age-related changes affect the skin's ability to function efficiently.

Warning! The elderly are at an increased risk for skin breakdown, pressure ulcer development, and prolonged wound healing.

Pressure ulcers negatively impact quality of life, causing limitations to mobility, activity, and clothing choices. They are painful, ugly, messy, and expensive. To achieve optimum health, skin must be kept intact and pressure ulcers prevented.

Promoting Skin Integrity Through Non-medical Care Conscientious skincare is essential:

  • Carefully examine the skin daily. Report open or reddened areas to doctor immediately.
  • Keep skin clean and dry (especially if incontinent). Use soft washcloths and towels. Pat dry do not rub!
  • Avoid drying out the skin; use lanolin-based products. Do not use alcohol-based or perfumed products, or harsh detergents or soaps.
  • Decrease the number of full baths weekly in winter. Avoid over-soaking.
  • Use sunscreen and wear hats, and light protective clothing outdoors.
  • Avoid pressure, friction and shear; they cause open areas that are susceptible to infection. Pressure is a destructive force when applied over time. It is the primary cause of pressure ulcers. Bony areas with little padding (hipbones, tailbone, elbows, knees) are especially vulnerable.
  • Every two hours: Turn and reposition non-ambulatory seniors and encourage ambulatory seniors to walk around or change seats.
  • Protect skin over bony areas! Use pressure relieving foam, air, or gel devices, pillows and wedges as props, and to keep vulnerable areas from touching the bed and each other.
  • Place a pillow or rolled up towel under ankles to suspend the heels, which can breakdown rapidly.
  • Avoid dragging motions, constrictive clothing, and massaging bony areas.
  • Break in new shoes gradually.

Nutrition is key in the maintenance of healthy skin. Adequate protein and calories are required:

  • Consult a healthcare professional regarding diet.
  • Strive to achieve in-range blood sugars. High glucose levels hinder wound healing.

The promotion of skin integrity is an integral part of eldercare that greatly enhances quality of life.

For more eldercare tips, visit www.mayihelpyouinc.net
To reach Bryna Smith, Owner, May I Help You, Inc., call (412) 853-0125

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