Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Caregiving: Skin Care for Immobile Adults
As we get older, our skin gets more thin and dry, so it is easier to damage. The chance of skin damage is higher for people who can't move much and who spend most of their time in bed or in a wheelchair. The skin can develop rashes and sores, especially pressure injuries. These sores are caused by constant pressure, which can limit the blood supply to the skin.
Skin also can be damaged by sweat, feces, or urine, making pressure injuries more likely and harder to heal.
You can help protect the skin of the person you're caring for by checking it every day and by being careful about cleaning the skin. It's also important to be careful when turning the person in bed.
Check the person's skin every day for pressure injuries, especially around bony areas. It's easiest to do this when you help the person bathe and dress. The most common places for these sores are the back of the head and ears, the shoulders, the elbows, the lower back and buttocks, and the hips. Sores also can form on the inner knees and the heels.
When a pressure injury forms, the skin temperature can be different than nearby skin. It might be warmer or cooler. The skin can feel either firmer or softer than the rest of the skin.
Also look for rashes, especially in the groin area. This is very important for people who have problems controlling their bladder or bowels and wear adult protective underwear.
Let the person know why you're checking the skin. Keep the person's body covered except for the area you are checking. This will help the person stay warm and also will respect his or her dignity.
You can prevent pressure injuries by carefully turning the person every 2 hours. It relieves the pressure that can be placed on an area of the body when a person doesn't move for a long time.
Let the person's doctor know if you see pressure injuries. The doctor or nurse may give you some advice about how to treat minor sores at home. Serious sores need more medical treatment.
You may be able to use devices that help prevent pressure injuries. These include special cushions and mattresses. But they don't take the place of turning the person.
Help bathe the person as often as needed to be clean and comfortable.
Use moisturizing creams or lotions to keep the skin soft. If the skin is very dry, use a protective barrier cream, lotion, or ointment. These include over-the-counter lotions such as CeraVe and TriCeram. Some lotions are available by prescription.
Don't put moisturizers in creases and folds, such as those under the breasts and in the groin or on the stomach. These areas are already moist. More moisture can lead to rashes and infections.
A humidifier may help prevent dry skin. Make sure to clean the humidifier as directed. This can prevent mold, fungus, or bacteria from forming in the machine.
Current as of:
December 9, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Kathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineGayle E. Stauffer, RN - Registered Nurse
Current as of: December 9, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Gayle E. Stauffer, RN - Registered Nurse
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.
You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups and pregnancy.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.