Dementia does not directly cause any rashes, however, it can lead to lifestyles and behaviours that make people with dementia more susceptible to skin irritations and rashes.
For yourself or someone you are caring for, rashes can be cause for concern. While a rash can cause discomfort and distress, often they are easily treated and can be prevented with some simple lifestyle changes. In this article, we go through 6 simple things you can do to try and prevent rashes for someone who has dementia.
Rashes can be an indirect risk. For example, while it is a good idea to get some sun on your skin if you have dementia or are caring for someone with the condition, applying sun cream can be easily overlooked and can result in sunburn. If someone is sat next to a window in full sun or is spending time outside, it’s important to keep their skin protected. Read our Summer safety tips for people with dementia article here.
Prevent dry skin
Commonly amongst people with dementia, rashes are due to dry skin. Dry skin is a natural part of the ageing process which happens as the skin becomes thin and cannot hold as much moisture. Dry skin can be treated with topical creams and removing irritants like harsh chemicals in soaps. Natural and mild skin cleansing products such as those available through the Live Better With shop are kind and gentle to the skin. Helping to avoid dryness and heal irritated skin.
It’s also a good idea to look for creams that don’t use synthetic perfumes, sulfates and surfactants which can also cause rashes or aggravate eczema.
Temperature can also affect the skin. The temperature in a home can be also be controlled with a thermostat to prevent it from getting too hot or cold. Humidifiers can also prevent dryness in the air. And houseplants not only look beautiful but they are also handy to improve humidity and overall air quality.
Approach personal hygiene with care
It’s important to approach all areas surrounding personal hygiene with care and consideration. These can be difficult conversations for family members to have with older parents with dementia and it can feel embarrassing for both parties.
Embarrassment about not being able to take care of one’s own personal hygiene can lead to people with dementia concealing painful rashes and living with discomfort for long amounts of time. Therefore if you are caring for someone with dementia, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of scratching or discomfort.
For someone living independently, managing household chores like changing the sheets, washing clothes and vacuuming carpets can be difficult. It may be a worthwhile expense, if possible, to pay a weekly cleaner to help around the house.
Rashes that cause itching
If a rash is itching, it’s important to check for signs of bedbugs (where the rash shows as bumps in a row) and for fleas – especially if living with a cat or dog. Lice and scabies can also occur due to reduced mobility and an inability to practice normal levels of personal hygiene.
Pay close attention to feet
When washing or caring for someone with dementia, it’s a good idea to pay special attention to washing and drying feet. Reduced mobility can make it harder to change socks and clean and dry between the toes, this can result in Athlete’s foot which can cause intense itching. Athlete’s foot can often be treated with an over the counter treatment. Foot powder with tee tree can also help to keep feet dry and free of rashes.
Nobody is at their happiest when they are in discomfort. For people with dementia, intense itching and discomfort can lead to frustration which can make caring for someone difficult. When applying topical cream to someone with dementia, skin surrounding a rash can be particularly sensitive and may result in unexpected physical outbursts.
To prevent any risk of injury to dementia sufferer and caregiver, it can be a good idea to remove the lid and let people apply topical cream to rashes themselves if that’s possible.
When to seek medical advice
If a rash persists, causes pain or shows sign of infection – it’s a good idea to seek medical advice. Many doctors will prescribe creams and medication to treat rashes and soothe discomfort. The discomfort caused by a rash can be distressing for someone suffering from dementia and you may need to keep a close eye on them to prevent them from scratching too much and damaging their skin.