Did you know that as we age, our skin is at greater risk for injury due to reduced blood supply and thinning of the outer layer of the skin (epidermis)? Many people over 70 years old may experience between one and four skin disorders, which is impacted by family history, genetics and lifestyle. The skin of elderly adults may be up to 7 times more permeable than a young adult. Bruises or tearing can occur more easily as we age and healing may be 4 or 5 times slower for elderly individuals compared to young people.
Skin breakdown and pressure sores can lead to other potentially life threatening conditions, such as sepsis, osteomyelitis and other infections. Unfortunately, there are some circumstances and conditions where skin breakdown and pressure sores are unavoidable. For example, pressure sores may develop as part of a disease progression. In a debilitated individual, a pressure sore could be a sign of physical decline and mortality similar to signs of heart, lung and kidney disease.
Risk Factors for Skin Problems and Injury Age Nutrition changes, including vitamin and/or protein deficiencies Prolonged bed rest or decreased activity Insufficient fluids Medications Incontinence Poor hygiene Smoking Medical conditions, such as factures, circulatory problems, diabetes, edema, infections, cancer or renal issues Changes in sensation, such as pain or lack of pain
If you notice pressure sores developing or increased injury to your skin, consult a doctor for care and treatment options as soon as possible. For those elderly adults receiving in-home care or residing in an assisted living facility, you and your family members should talk with your primary caretakers about the protocols for care, including developing a plan that takes into account medical history, expectations and willingness to follow the plan.
When the time comes that you or a family member is no longer able to live independently, contact CalRegistryto discuss the options and learn about assisted living services and facilities within California.