Skin tears are the most common wound type in the elderly population because as we begin to age, our skin becomes weaker and is more susceptible to tearing.
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 injury, leg ulcer or skin tear at any one time, according to a study by G. Sussman, titled, ‘Wound healing and cost impacts of interventions by pharmacists in community settings.’
Medical literature indicates that women are more susceptible to skin tears than males, due to specific skin transformations that occur as a result of decreasing hormone levels. Very old, frail, nutritionally compromised women and those living with dementia were at greatest risk of developing skin tears. And, healing rates become significantly compromised due to reduced circulation and skin cell regeneration in older women.
A study conducted in nursing homes over a six-month period concluded that over 65 per cent of the survey respondents suffered the following characteristics:
- Sensory loss – 68 per cent
- Compromised nutrition – 68 per cent
- Advanced age (over 70) – 76 per cent
- History of a previous skin tear – 80 per cent
- Cognitive impairment – 77 per cent
- Dependency – 82 per cent
How to treat a skin tear
When treating skin tears, a dressing which minimises the number of dressing changes is ideal. Adhesive dressings, for example, films, tapes and so on easily traumatise new skin and surrounding skin on removal and are not an appropriate choice for skin tear management. The use of paper or cloth tape in conjunction with a skin sealant initially and an alcohol-free adhesive remover, is recommended.
A study comparing the healing rates of skin tears using foam dressings compared with film dressings at 21 days found a healing rate of 94 per cent in the foam group compared with 65 per cent healing in the film group, a statistically significant result. Another important consideration was noting the direction of the skin flap on the outside of the dressing, to prevent further trauma once a dressing was removed.
Oxley Home Care aged care nursing staff advocate moisturising twice a day and using a silicone foam wound dressing from a good supplier, such as Smith & Nephew, leaving the dressing in place for up to one week and maintaining a healthy balance of moisture and dryness. This practice means our clients have a greater chance of avoiding skin tears.
To read more about the studies into wound tears click here.
About Oxley Home Care:
Oxley Home Care is an Approved Provider of Home Care Packages funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing and holds an allocation of Home Care Packages. These packages are designed to provide assistance to the elderly, to remain living independently at home.
To gain access to a Home Care Package, the government requires that you undergo a comprehensive assessment by your local Aged Care Assessment Team (ACAT). To arrange the assessment, contact My Aged Care on 1800 200 422 or visit the My Aged Care web site.
Please feel free to call 1300 993 591 for further information.