Managing Eczema in the Elderly

As people age, their skin changes and they can develop issues and chronic problems with it.  One such problem that affects people of all ages, but especially the elderly is eczema.  Eczema is a condition of the skin that results in dry, scaly skin.

What is Eczema?

Technically, eczema is the loss of lipids on the skin, which causes dryness.  Lipids are insoluble fatty compounds that surround cells to retain water.  As the lipids are reduced, the skin develops patches and inflammation.  It is caused or made worse by several factors, some of which include:

  • dry environment
  • dehydration
  • too hot bath water
  • lack of nutrition

While any of these issues may not always cause eczema, they do result in a loss of moisture in the skin, which can lead to the disease.  Seniors may not get the irritation diagnosed when they should because they think it is just dry or irritated skin.  This can cause the condition to get worse.  It is also possible that other conditions can be mistaken for eczema, such as a side effect from blood pressure medicine or an allergy.  It is essential that the senior person suffering from the rash get diagnosed by a health care professional, preferably a dermatologist.

More than one type of eczema exists and it is important that the medical professional will make the correct diagnosis on the person.  The most common type is Atopic Dermatitis, but this is usually seen in children.  The kind most common in people over the age of 50 is Stasis Dermatitis.  It is often found on the legs and can develop into ulcers if not treated.

Other types of eczema occur on the face, hands, even the back and chest.  Treatment can vary based on the type and severity.  This is why it is essential to get any unusual skin irritation checked out quickly.  Homecare services caregivers are trained to notice changes in skin when they assist with bathing and can inform you before it worsens.

Prevention and Treatment

Maintaining proper hydration is the best way to prevent eczema.  Here are some suggestions to prevent this disease from happening to your loved one or prevent recurrence.

  1. Do not use hot bath water even though it feels good.  The extreme heat actually dries out sensitive or thin skin much faster.  It removes the body of the natural oils that protect the skin.  A lukewarm bath or shower is better for the skin, and shorter baths are preferable to long ones.
  2. Keep temperatures in the home at a comfortable level.  Many seniors do not recognize when a room is hot and this heat can cause the skin to develop an eczema rash due to dry skin.  Areas of the skin that have folds can  also increase the chance of developing eczema due to sweat.
  3. Your senior loved one or their caregiver should apply lotion on the senior’s body, especially during the winter when cold, dry air can also dry out skin.
  4. Use a humidifier in the house to keep moisture in the air.
  5. Use a gentle laundry detergent as some of the ingredients in harsh soaps can aggravate eczema.
  6. Avoid any other triggers such as makeup, lotions, or bath products that may be an allergen to the person.

Foods may also be an allergen and trigger a flare-up of the condition.  Pay attention to events that trigger your loved one’s eczema or make it worse.  A homecare services caregiver that visits your loved one on regular basis can also be aware of any unusual issues and help by inform you if their skin shows any signs of a rash.

Natural remedies are often recommended to treat eczema.  Health care professionals also prescribe topical creams and in severe cases, may prescribe oral medication to help with the condition.  Their main recommendation is for prevention once the eczema is under control and they suggest lifestyle changes they believe will help.  It may take several changes before you can discover the triggers and prevent recurrence.

Eczema is an uncomfortable condition but one that is treatable if diagnosed.  Encourage your loved one to let you know if they notice anything unusual or have itching or rashes appear.

Homecare services can provide caregivers to help with your loved ones needs.  Carefect Homecare Services is a high-quality homecare company with trained caregivers in many areas of senior care.  Our caregivers provide compassionate care while assisting with personal care that includes bathing, putting on lotion, and monitoring skin condition.  Our staff will alert you to anything unusual and help your senior to better care for themselves to prevent recurrences of eczema and other skin problems.