Seniors with incontinence often have a higher risk of impaired skin integrity. One of the common problems is skin tears and cracks. When the skin has cracks, tears, and fissures, bacteria can get into these areas and breed, causing infection and increased irritation. In addition, impaired skin is more susceptible to further problems such as pressure sores and frictional or shear damage.
Treating skin tears and cracks, coupled with taking steps for prevention, can help return skin to health and reduce the risk of infection and further complications.
1. Good nutrition. One of the best ways to achieve healthy skin is to eat a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals, and provides the body with needed nutrients. It is also important to stay properly hydrated. Many individuals with incontinence will drink less water to help “control” their incidences. This however, is not only not going to help incontinence, but it will also lead to poor skin health. Dehydrated skin is more likely to tear and crack. Eat a balanced diet and drink plenty.
2. Cleaning the skin regularly. Skin tears and cracks are typically caused by a few things, frictional or shear damage and dehydration. Cleaning the skin daily is very important for skin health, but it can increase the likelihood of frictional and shear damage. Choose a no-rinse option that does not require a lot of rubbing to clean with each change. Choose a cleanser that is pH balanced. The ammonia produced by urine will increase the pH of the skin, making it more susceptible to tearing and cracking. And, it also provides food for bacteria. A pH balanced cleanser helps to combat these problems.
3. Moisturizing the skin daily. The skin needs to be moisturized in order to achieve elasticity. Prolonged exposure to wetness, urine, feces, and certain cleansers (like soap and water) can dry the
4. Using a skin protectant to keep it healthy, and reduce breakdown. As skin ages it produces less sebum, its natural protectant. A moisture barrier ointment will help promote healing and skin health.
5. Changing incontinence products more frequently to reduce exposure to urine and stool. Urine produces ammonia, which is the perfect food for the bacteria found in stool. This makes the perineal skin a breeding ground for bacteria. When you combine that with the fact that ammonia raises the pH of the skin, making it more susceptible to breakdown, you can see why prolonged exposure to urine and stool can cause impaired skin integrity.