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Skin Care For Seniors and People With Disabilities

Updated on November 7, 2015

Skincare is vitally important for anyone suffering from a lack of mobility or any type of incontinence. Over 30 years ago I saw a boy with bedsores (decubitus ulcers) down to the bone. He was looking at more than a year of hospitalization and possible amputation of his legs. His skin had been perfectly healthy when he had been released from the rehab hospital six months earlier. The sight of that young man's backside, worn down and eaten away by neglect and his own disinterest, made an impression that no amount of lecturing from doctors ever could. I am a fanatic about skin care!

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This skin we sit on is assaulted by moisture, bacteria, fungus, pressure, heat, and all manner of acidic/alkaline discharges. A lack of movement, blood supply, and adequate air can turn a healthy bottom into a swollen, inflamed, infected, and extraordinarily painful mess. It's possible to be very clean and still have skin breakdown. Even one bladder or bowel accident can cause problems.

Everyone's skin is different. It seems incredibly obvious but it's important to understand that what works for one person can be a disaster for another. Some suffer from overly dry skin while others can't get rid of the moisture fast enough.

I am going to suggest some skincare products and a few techniques that have worked wonders for me. Believe me, I've tried every expensive ointment and cream out there. For the most part, the cheaper and familiar brands have turned out to be the best.

Basic Skincare

First and foremost, inspect your skin thoroughly every day. Have your personal care assistant or spouse take a look at all your parts. If you're shy and are able then get a mirror and do it yourself.

Keep your skin as clean and dry as possible. Find a soap that works gently with the peritoneal area (your down there). I use Castile soap. I have been told that it is too harsh but it works for me. Ivory and most other very mild soaps that you would use for a baby or sensitive skin should do the trick. RINSE. RINSE. RINSE.

Be Proactive

Invest in a small fan.  Use it morning and evening for just a few minutes.  Make sure the air stays cool and gentle.  To be truly useful, it must hit everything.  Pull open any folds or wrinkles in your skin.  Lie down and pull your legs up if need be.  Yes, you may feel silly but it beats weeks of down time waiting for something to heal.

In a pinch, I've been known to use a hair dryer set on cool.  I know some favor heat lamps but I am shy of them.  I certainly would never use one without a doctor's recommendation and constant supervision.  Blisters and burns are no fun especially ones THERE.

Your Bottom Needs to See the Light of Day From Time to Time

I don’t mean that you need to sun the skin on your backside. A sun lamp would be dangerous as well. What I do mean is that you should go without underpants sometimes. After a bath, sit wide open. We in the south call it “letting your skin air.” If you are bedridden then lie on your side with nothing over your bottom half.

Many, many problems can be avoided by changing the weight on your skin. Do pressure releases by changing your position often. This will release moisture and heat. It will also encourage blood flow.

When You Have a Problem

Skin breakdowns can be caused by many things and what can work for one breakdown may not work for another type of breakdown.  Learn about your body.  For instance, I will treat a blister differently than a rash.

The wound clinic I attended suggested using calmoseptine ointment on damaged skin. It works very well as it contains calamine and zinc oxide. The stuff is bright pink and very sticky. Over time, it can dry your skin out. Watch for flaking. This stuff is pretty inexpensive. You can get it online and at Costco.

The old fashioned A & D ointment as well as almost any type of Desitin will offer good skin protection from moisture while letting your skin heal.

I use a combination of ointments depending on the severity of the problem. I would suggest experimentation here. They are all pretty cheap.

Shop online or at a discount store for the best prices. Insurance usually does not cover this.

One Last Treatment

I have had tremendous results using essential oils. I’m not going to go into too much detail here. It takes some study to make your own skin oils for healing. You must be very careful when using these oils on damaged skin.

I generally use a combination of carrier oils suited to skin care along with lavender, most of the chamomile family, tea tree, Helichrysum and a few others. I would not recommend this avenue unless you are prepared to commit some time to learn how to do it properly.

Start with the link at the bottom of this hub.

Prevent Bed Sores

A Final Note

My skin problems have all been on the minor end of the scale. I have been paralyzed for over thirty years and have never missed a day of work due to skin problems. (I am not counting the third degree burn I got from a Volkswagen floor heater that required a skin graft.) There is no question that a serious breakdown must be seen by a doctor.

These suggestions are meant to help the individual stop problems before they happen and to treat the minor ones before they become major ones.

I would love to hear what you use for skin breakdowns. Leave a comment below.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Hey, you're the goto extper. Thanks for hanging out here.

    • profile image

      Martha Franco 

      11 years ago

      Very interesting article, and relevant for even those who ARE mobile. I'm thinking especially of an elderly aunt who doesn't move around much--not that she CAN"T--she just doesn't.


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