Published on:

Protect Your Senior Loved One’s Skin Before And During The Next Polar Vortex

And old saying observes that “Beauty is only skin deep,” but I believe both beauty and better health begin inside and out. Here’s one example why.

I serve as a Geriatric Care Manager for a woman in her late 80s who has no family. Although I regret to take her outside during the cold weather, her medical appointments are a necessity that cannot be avoided. I’ve thought about how tough the frigid Chicago weather can be on anybody’s skin. Since I know my client’s medical history, I keep the following things in mind as part of her elder care planning:

Since she is over 85 years old, her skin is very fragile and rather thin. Therefore, she is subject to two skin conditions:

1. Seborrheic Dermatitis, a skin inflammation that is characterized by areas of dry, itchy flakes that are normally found in oily areas such as the scalp. The condition becomes worse during the cold weather. The condition is caused by yeast that activates skin irritation in cold weather.

2. Psoriasis, another skin condition that appears like a red outbreak with a dry patch on the top. It can appear just about anywhere on the body, but emerges mostly on the elbows, knees, and scalp. I have often seen the psoriasis flare on my client’s legs, and during the dark winter weather, it is much harder to clear up. It is much easier to get the outbreak to diminish when the skin is exposed to some light. The dermatologist treats the outbreak with a combination of topical steroids and an ointment called Calcitrol.

Aside from applying medications, here are some other tips that may help you to preserve your senior loved one’s skin:

First, don’t let a senior take a prolonged shower. Not only does it dry the skin, but it also aggravates the aforementioned skin conditions and causes the psoriasis to appear redder than ever. This tip also makes my client very happy. She has dementia and thinks she does not need to shower.

After a brief but sufficient shower, the senior will need to moisturize his/her skin. If s/he can tolerate something that is a little greasier like petroleum jelly, the more effective the process will be.

I also instruct the staff at the assisted living community where my client lives to be certain that she drinks a lot of fluids. Since they assist her with toileting, I ask that they check the color of her urine. If it appears too yellow, it means she is not drinking enough fluids. I also purchased a small humidifier for her apartment which keeps moisture in the atmosphere.

When I do take my client outside, I make certain that all of her skin is covered and nothing is exposed to the elements. This tip, like all I have mentioned so far, is a healthy practice for everyone really, but this advice can spare your loved one(s) significant discomfort.

In addition to caring for your seniors skin, you may also want to watch for a condition called SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder. It is a type of depressive disorder that occurs with the change in seasons. My dad often experienced SAD when the winter set in and it became dark very early in the afternoon. The disorder can also occur when the season changes to summer. Other symptoms include overeating with a craving for carbs, difficulty waking up, and nausea.

For all your senior living needs, please contact Andrea Donovan Senior Living Advisors.