Are Skin Conditions Causing More Problems For The Elderly?

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Skincare and overall skin health is an extremely important factor for maintaining good health and well-being in all individuals in order to prevent infections and illnesses from occurring. It is particularly important within the elderly population who are at a greater risk of developing illnesses and infections that can be associated with poor skin care.

As we get older there are a number of changes that occur to the skin. Changes to the skin may occur as a result of damage, and other factors from daily life, and these factors include: personal habits, diet, lifestyle, genetics, stress, and sun exposure. Skin changes may include: roughened or dry skin, benign growths, loose facial skin (particularly around the eyes, cheeks and jaw line), transparent or thinned skin, and individuals may bruise more easily because of reduced elasticity within the skin.

Skin Conditions In The Elderly

There are a number of skin conditions that can be extremely common amongst the elderly. The most common skin conditions that occur are dry itchy skin, and Pressure Sores.

Dry Itchy Skin

Dry itchy skin amongst the elderly could be caused by a number of conditions including: Psoriasis, Seborrhoeic Dermatitis, and Eczema.
Psoriasis causes red flaky patches of skin covered with silvery scales that generally occur on an individual’s knees, elbows, scalp and lower back. These patches are usually itchy and sore. Although there is no cure for Psoriasis there are a number of treatments that could help to alleviate the symptoms including: topical ointments and creams, corticosteroids, and phototherapy (exposing skin to certain types of ultraviolet light).

Seborrhoeic Dermatitis is a common skin condition that causes patches of inflamed skin. Patches tend to occur on oily areas of the body including the face and scalp. Symptoms include: red patches of skins, white/yellow scales that may appear on the affected areas of skin, and itchy and sore areas of skin. There currently isn’t a cure for Seborrhoeic Dermatitis, however treatments include: corticosteroids, topical creams and ointment, medicated shampoos, and antifungal medications.

Eczema is a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, dry, cracked and inflamed. Eczema is a long-term chronic condition that mainly affects any areas with folds of skin (e.g. behind the knees). The exact cause of Eczema isn’t known however causes may include allergies and pre-existing conditions (e.g. Asthma). There currently is no cure for Eczema but there are a number of treatments available including: emollients, corticosteroids, antihistamines, and antibiotics.

Pressure Sores

Pressure Sores are an injury that causes the breakdown of skin and the underlying tissue. This type of injury is caused when an area of the body is put under pressure for a period of time. This is a common type of skin injury amongst the elderly because they are more likely to spend large quantities of time sitting or lying in the same position as a result of other health issues. Pressure Sores can be treated in a number of ways including: the use of creams and gels, and dressings designed to speed up the healing process. By regularly changing an individual’s position or using specially designed equipment to protect vulnerable parts of the body the healing process can be aided further, or the formation of Pressure Sores can be prevented altogether.

Home Care And Elderly Skin Conditions

Implementing a care package could be be beneficial for an individual who is suffering from a severe skin conditions. This is because a care worker would be able to support an individual with all aspects of personal care. This would include ensuring that an individual’s personal hygiene is maintained to a high standard, and this can be done through bathing an individual, or assisting them with washing. Cleanliness of the skin helps to prevent infections.

Another way in which care assistants would be able to assist an individual who is suffering from a skin condition would be to help with applying topical creams and ointments. It is important that this is done, particularly when working with older individuals in order to prevent injuries which could cause problems with the skin (e.g. pressure sores). This also provides the care worker with the opportunity to check any areas of the skin that could potentially cause the individual problems, and if any are identified a district nurse or doctor could be brought in to assist the individual. This ensures that the skin remains in good condition, and prevents illness or infection.

Are Pressure Sores Becoming A Bigger Problem Amongst The Elderly?

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Pressure sores are fast becoming a more common ailment amongst individuals living in the UK. 1 in 20 hospital admissions will end up with an individual developing a pressure sore. It is also estimated that in the space of a year approximately half a million people living in the UK will be affected by pressure sores. Pressure sores are most likely to develop amongst individuals who are over 70.

At present there is an ageing population in the UK, resulting in more and more individuals requiring additional help and support to maintain their health and general well-being. Pressure sores can become a common ailment of the elderly because of individuals becoming less mobile and spending more time sitting or in bed. Pressure sores can cause a number of long-term problems with elderly individuals, particularly if they are left untreated.

What Is A Pressure Sore?

Pressure sores are a type of injury that causes the skin and underlying tissue to break down on an area of the body, where the skin is placed under pressure. They develop when a large amount of pressure is placed on a particular area over a short period of time, or when low levels of pressure is placed on an area for longer periods of time. Pressure sores occur because the flow of blood to an area of the body is disrupted, and the affected area of skin becomes starved of nutrients and oxygen causing the skin to break down. This leads to a sore forming.

How Can Pressure Sores Be Treated And Prevented?

There are a number of ways in which pressure sores can be treated. For example dressings, creams and gels can be used, as they are designed to speed up the healing process and relieve pressure around the affected area.

In extreme cases pressure sores may require surgery. In cases where surgery is required, the main aim is to improve the appearance and hygiene and appearance of the sore, as well as preventing and treating any infection that may be present. Reconstruction of the area may also be a viable surgical route. Reconstruction of an area affected by a pressure sore involves using some of the individuals muscle, and skin or other tissue to cover the wound. This can be an effective procedure because it provides a cushion to the affected bone.

Other treatments include: pain management, antibiotics, a healthy and well balanced diet, and muscle spasm relief. Muscle spasm relief is the use of muscle relaxants (e.g. Valium), as these can prevent muscle spasms, which in turn will aid the healing process of any sores that may have been worsened as a result of friction related to muscle spasms.
Home Care And Pressure Sores

Pressure sores tend to indicate that an individual has a lack of mobility and this in turn means that they may not be able to complete many daily living tasks unaided. As a result of this many individuals may become more and more dependent on their relatives for supporting them to complete tasks required for daily living (e.g. meal preparation, eating, washing, dressing, etc.).
This can have a significant impact on family members as they may feel pressured, or become increasingly tired as a result of having to help relatives all of the time. Implementing a home care package could help a family significantly. This is because a care worker would be able to visit the individual at home and provide them with the help and support that they need in order to complete daily living tasks.

Care workers would also be able to play an active role in monitoring and treating pressure sores, by making sure that they are always kept clean and dry in order to aid healing and prevent infection. In cases where individuals are bed bound care workers would also be able to play an active role in preventing bed sores by making sure that they are regularly turned, and kept comfortable, without causing pressure to build in any area of the body. The implementation of a care package could also be very beneficial to an individual’s family, and this is because it will relieve the pressure on them to provide a relative with personal care, and this in turn will provide them with more time to spend quality time with their family member.