Elderly Skin and Bruising and the Effects Of
September 4, 2008 8:38 AM   Subscribe

Nursing home horror, involving the skin of elderly people - (disturbing description inside)

OK - This is a warning - it's not pleasant at all what happened to someone I know, in fact it's outright gross. But apparently it is a fact of life - that the older we get - the thinner the skin becomes. So - again - if physical description will gross you - please don't read this.

OK - so my friend was visiting her mother at an old age home, when suddenly another resident who was walking around apparently in a state of dementia (there was NO nurse or staff anywhere to be found there at the time, btw), suddenly fell. She was walking into a raised garden plot and apparently didn't or couldn't see that there was a certain height between the ground and the raised bed - and she fell.

My friend rushed to her and as she was attempting to pick her up, the woman's skin just pierced. There was no force involved other than attempting to lift her. Her skin just came away so that there was a quarter sized blister like sore where my friend's thumb was. In short, the elderly woman is *fine* as much as could be expected in a place like that and she finally was administered first aid. But my friend is virtually freaking out - and somewhat traumatized by the whole situation.

1 - He essentially would never hurt anything or anyone and to think he hurt a little old lady is just, in his mind - unfathomable

2 - He can't get the moment his thumb pierced this woman's arm out of his mind

I'd really like to help him - what kind of reassurance do I give him aside from *you were trying to help, things happen, it just happened that way...*? Is there anything that could put his mind at ease? Just as a side note to this, she did apparently have bandages in other places on her arms - so this could have possibly happened before.

Lastly, my friend will have to return to this place, is there maybe a salve he could bring the woman that would help with this type of thinning of the derma?

posted by watercarrier to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
Response by poster: Clarification - I just read the question and why did I write him and he when my friend is a female? Have no idea. Anyway - not that it matters to the question - but in fact my friend is a woman and NOT a man.
posted by watercarrier at 8:44 AM on September 4, 2008

Best answer: Emphasize that he probably saved her from a broken hip, a hit to the head or other injury. If she had to spend time in bed with such fragile skin (and many elderly people have very fragile skin), she could have ended up with even worse injury to the skin, not to mention problems like going catatonic from a hip injury or being moved to a new place. (As happened to my grandfather.)

If he wants to make it up to her and she's agreeable, he could visit her and talk to her...perhaps regularly, as part of his visits to see his mom.

Elderly people have fragile skin. When I used to demo medical devices, I was given a lot of info about how easily it tears -- and told to emphasize this when talking to nurses. So even medical professionals need reminders.
posted by acoutu at 8:58 AM on September 4, 2008

Oh, I read your note and forgot to change the pronouns. Replace he with she. Sorry.
posted by acoutu at 8:59 AM on September 4, 2008

Best answer: My grandpa is 97. His skin is also very thin. He recently took a fall and practically peeled the skin off of a three inch square patch on his forearm. This isn't a rare occasion and it does heal, although slowly. As a matter of fact, his forearms look like a war is being fought on them. He is still a pretty active guy so that delicate skin gets beat up from even common activities like his dog brushing the underside of its paw across it. Doesn't seem to stop grandpa from doing what he wants. I think that lady would probably look the same except she is living a rather sedate life in a nursing home.
posted by Foam Pants at 9:02 AM on September 4, 2008

I'm an EMT, and I've seen an awful lot of this. Not uncommon at all, and your friend need not worry. This would have probably happened no matter who was trying to help the woman - she did the right thing by coming to her assistance.
posted by blaneyphoto at 9:41 AM on September 4, 2008

Best answer: Elderly people often have fragile skin. When I'm in a situation of lifting or assisting an elderly person, I've found that if I can spread the force out, through clothing, as near to the trunk of the body as possible, the less likely I am to injure them further. For that reason, I often lift under the armpits.

Your friend should concentrate on what she did- likely saved that elderly woman a great deal of distress.

If it continues to haunt her, why doesn't she go back and visit the woman in the nursing home while the woman is safely in bed? Even if she is very far gone with dementia, there are lucid times and the nursing home can probably advise when a good time might be, and (almost) everyone appreciates company. Replace the horror in her memory with a nice visit and seeing the woman safe and sound.
posted by arnicae at 10:00 AM on September 4, 2008

Not just elderly -- I'm "only" 54 and the skin on my arms has become very sensitive, bruises very easy. Once my 9-year-old nephew grabbed my arm and made a bruise -- or maybe all that's going on is blood vessels bursting beneath my tender skin.
posted by Rash at 10:34 AM on September 4, 2008

Response by poster: acoute - that's ok - I did it too :)

Does anyone know if there's a salve or maybe even a vitamin or bath additive you can offer someone to help heal the wounds?

I will pass all of these answers on to my friend btw - thank you so much.
posted by watercarrier at 10:38 AM on September 4, 2008

Best answer: This is not the best thing to do. The best course of action is to tell the nursing staff about the injury and next time your friend visits take some shortbread or flowers and just ask how the person is doing.... spend 10 minutes having a chat.

Everything medical is provided for this person, the one thing they won't get enough of is outside conversation. That's a much more healing salve than any vitamin or cream, believe me.
posted by taff at 2:22 PM on September 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

Totally normal. Tell him he did his best. This happens every day and the staff will take care of her.
posted by docpops at 9:04 PM on September 4, 2008

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