Did you know that our largest organ is our skin? As such, it’s important that we take care of it as we get older, as we become more susceptible to skin tears and dryness. Read on to find out more about skin tears and wound care for seniors.
What is a skin tear?
A skin tear is when there is a break on the skin, which can lead to skin essentially “peeling back”. Skin tears in the elderly can be very serious and can happen because of a person tripping up or falling, bumping into things forcefully or when an adhesive such as a band aid or bandage tape is removed.
How can I prevent a skin tear?
When it comes to skin tears, how can we do our best to prevent our clients from them?
The good news is that by moisturising arms and legs twice each day, a client can protect more fragile areas of their skin from becoming torn. We recommend fragrance free & allergen free moisturisers as they are suited to most skin types including those with eczema. Taking the steps to moisturise daily can actually halve the chances of getting a skin tear.
When showering or bathing, try a soap substitute like sorbolene cleanser. Soap actually tends to dry our skin further, which is what we are trying to avoid!
It goes without saying that many issues with our bodies can be aided with a healthy, balanced diet – and preventing skin tears is no exception! Drinking a lot more water and eating foods rich in nutritional value can help skin greatly (however, please don’t drastically change anyone’s diet without their doctor’s approval).
As much as no one wants to think about falling, you may want to take pre-emptive measures to ensure safety. For example, keeping a home clutter free and well lit. This will ensure less obstructions that could cause tripping or bumping that could cause a wound. Wearing longer sleeved clothing will also help add a layer for the skin so that if something were to happen, the limbs have added protection.
What to do if a loved one or client have a skin tear?
At Vital Home Health Services, our clinical nurses are well trained and well experienced in skin tears and wound management, and as such have provided advice on what to do when skin tears occur.
Firstly, it’s imperative that you clean your hands well and dry them before handling a skin tear.
Apply pressure to the area gently – be communicative to the person injured and ensure they aren’t in any added pain from you applying pressure. Applying pressure can help slow down or even stop bleeding.
Using warm water and a clean cloth, you can clean the wound up, removing any specks of dirt which may have landed on the area. When the wound is cleaned up, you can then dry the area with a clean towel.
Sometimes the skin flap is still attached to the wound – this is a good thing, so try to gently nudge it back in place. Keeping skin flaps in-tact can help the healing process, so don’t cut it off the skin.
Using something non-adhesive on the skin, like a bandage is a good idea. Adhesive dressing may worsen the tear upon removal.
Once these steps have been taken, get in touch with a doctor or community clinical nurse so that they can inspect the wound and ensure the right steps have been taken to encourage healing.
Should I follow up with a doctor?
In most instances, the skin tear should heal within 2 weeks’ time. However, there are instances where you may want to take your client or loved one to see the doctor. Such as:
- The wound is not healing – skin tears usually take around 2 weeks to heal
- Increased redness or swelling around the wound
- Increased or new pain on the wound-site
- Excessive weeping from the wound
- The wound is producing a smell
- Person is feeling unwell or has a fever
- There is yellowing or blackening around the wound
In any case, if you are concerned at all, do not hesitate to follow up with their doctor.
Skin tears and wounds are a serious matter for older people. It’s very wise to put preventative measures in place to help with this but more importantly, always address wounds from bumps and falls promptly and safely to prevent any further issues arising from them.
The caring Vital Home Health Services team can provide wound management including management of complex wounds as part of a range of services. If you are looking for care for a loved one, you can find out more about our services here.