If people were books, their skin would be the beautiful “cover” that shelters the life story contained within. Skin (which is the largest organ in the human) works to protect the body from harmful microbes, chemicals and strong rays of light that could damage more sensitive inner tissues. The nerves inside skin also sense pain, textures and temperatures, again alerting us to possible danger and prompting us to take action. For seniors, skin – which may not be as smooth, plump and flawless as it once was – is simultaneously an outward reflection of a long and wonderful life, and an inward tell-tale story of what is going on with their bodies at this very moment. It makes sense, then, that we should care for – and listen to – our very important skin.
The wellness team at The Saybrook at Haddam remind us that skin is a fantastic monitor of our internal health – often giving us the first warning signs of a dangerous condition such as diabetes or atherosclerosis, or of an allergic reaction to foods, bug bites or medicines. Watch for these types of changes in your skin and discuss with your doctor if needed:
- Bacterial infections such as sties, boils, carbuncles or bacterial infections of the nails
- Fungal infections that can cause itchy, red rashes surrounded by tiny blisters or scales in the warm folds of the skin
- Dry, itchy skin
- Bumps, rashes or skin depressions
- Hair loss, thin, shiny skin, discolored toenails and cold skin
- Thick, waxy, tight skin on fingers, toes and hands
- Patches of discolored skin on the hands, elbows, knees or face
Skin is also part of our outward appearance, which naturally changes as we age. The Saybrook at Haddam’s care team offers some easy tips for seniors to keep their skin in great shape so they can look and feel their best (courtesy of SkinCare.net and the American Senior Care Association).
- Moisturize in the evening with a very thick moisturizer that contains , shea butter, and hyaluronic gel. Make sure moisturizer is free of fragrances and dyes.
- Wash only once a day to avoid damaging the natural oils needed for great skin. Over time, oil production diminishes significantly and elderly skin can really dry out.
- Do not use Retin-A which can dry and irritate older skin (however, use if instructed by a doctor).
- Avoid hot water and cleansers with harsh chemicals that could damage “senior skin.” Instead, use a mild soap and lukewarm water, and pat-dry thoroughly with a towel (do not rub).
- Check your skin after washing to look for any red, irritated or dry spots (and possible skin infections).
- Treat skin injuries (scratches) promptly by washing with soap and water right away. See your doctor if any injuries do not heal properly.
- Use SPF 30 sunscreen or greater whenever you go outdoors (even for just a short while).
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day so your skin stays healthy and moist.
Our skin is such a vital part of who we are – and we each should love the skin we are in. Let’s listen to what it tells us about our general health, and let’s take good care of it!