Did you know that in Australia ‘skin tears account for 54.8% of all wound types in the elderly, with up to 25% of residential aged care facility residents suffering from a pressure wound, leg ulcer or skin tear at any one timei’?
Skin tears are wounds that occur mainly on the extremities of the very young, such as neonates and the elderly, particularly those over the age of 75ii.
Increasingly affecting the elderly population, skin tears can be as a result of friction alone or shearing and friction forces togetherii. These forces can separate the epidermis from the dermis, (partial thickness wounds) or separate both the epidermis and dermis from underlying structures (full thickness wounds)i,i.
Mostly present on the arms and hands, or lower legs, feet and head, they are often caused by falls, every day activity, resident transfer and equipment injuryii. Further to this, skin tears are considered more prevalent in women compared to males as a result of decreasing hormone levels that affect specific skin transformations
In order to reduce the prevalence of skin tears in the elderly community, aged care facilities and workers can assist their residents daily through regular monitoring of skin changes and through ensuring the resident and their skin are adequately hydrated.
Otherwise, if skin tears are treated inappropriately or left completely untreated they can become chronic wounds. This results in extreme effects on the individual’s physical, social and psychological health as well as imposing a huge cost on the communityii.
Healthcare professionals and aged care facilities play a crucial role in ensuring proper protocols are put in place to effectively and efficiently manage the prevention and care of these wounds.
1. Promote Good Nutrition
What a person eats and drinks directly influences the appearance and health of their skin. Ensure residents are receiving a balanced diet with plenty of fluids every day.
2. Regularly audit skin
Aged care workers should be regularly documenting their resident’s skin and any changes that occur to ensure that adequate care can be provided by care staff at a facility as and when necessary.
3. Avoid adhesive products
Strong adhesive tapes or dressing can result in skin tears or further tearing. Ensure you are using non-traumatic paper or silicone tapes on the resident’s skin and avoid ripping or tearing the skin when you remove any tape or dressings.
4. Regular skin care
Regular use of good quality skin care that is pH balanced and free of irritants is necessary to help improve fragile and dry skin.
5. Be gentle
Aged care workers and carers should always use safe handling techniques. Ensuring they are lifting the resident in correct positions with precise transferring techniques to prevent the chance of creating a wound or worsening one.
i Sussman, G and Golding, M. Skin Tears: Should the Emphasis Be Only Their Management? [online]. Wound Practice & Research: Journal of the Australian Wound Management Association, Vol. 19, No. 2, Jun 2011: 66-68, 70-71. Availability here
ii LeBlanc K, Baranoski S for the Skin Tear Consensus Panel. Skin tears: state of the science: consensus statements for the prevention, prediction, assessment, and treatment of skin tears. Adv Skin Wound Care 2011; 24 (9, Suppl.):2-15.