May 2012: 3 Reasons Why Sun Exposure is Not Good for Older Adults

3 Reasons Why Sun Exposure is Not Good for Older Adults

Skin cancer is becoming more prevalent as people age. Why? Skin damage from sun exposure is cumulative throughout a person’s lifetime. People are living longer than ever before and 50% of skin cancer deaths occur in people over 65. As a person ages, damaged skin loses its ability to protect itself from the sun. This is why it is so important that older adults wear hats and protect their skin from further sun exposure. Wear sunscreen and protective clothing. Limit sun exposure.

Sun damage caused earlier in life can cause skin cancer later in life. Because of age spots, dryness, wrinkles and other skin conditions, cancer is harder to detect in older people. Seniors do not recover from melanoma the way younger people do either. Seniors should frequently check for raised moles, changes in shape of moles, jagged edges, discoloration or signs of bleeding. Visit your dermatologist annually for a body scan if you have lived in hot climates and/or experienced a lot of sun exposure.

If you are using a sunscreen with a 15 rating and you add makeup that has 25 rating, 25 is the rating you will get. It does not add together. This means you are protected during 25 minutes of direct sun exposure.

More Than a Glass of Water…

Getting seniors to drink water is very difficult since their ability to sense thirst diminishes with age.  Tea, Coffee and sodas do not count as hydration since they are diuretics.  As a Geriatric Care Manager, I have accompanied many seniors to the hospital and watched multiple staff members try to draw blood out of a dehydrated senior.  The veins are flat and it ends up being a painful experience.

Seniors make trips to the bathroom more than younger counterparts.  It may be one of the reasons they do not want to drink water as it adds to the number of times they have to visit the bathroom.  If they have a problem with urinary incontinence, this can add to the problem.  However, not enough liquids can contribute to urinary tract infections which are very common in older adults.

To encourage seniors to hydrate, have water available in an easy to use drink container.  Home health or family caregivers can offer the individual water on a regular basis.  Make sure beverages are not sugar laden or containing caffeine as caffeine acts as diuretic.  It is not important that they drink large quantities but that they drink small amounts on a regular basis.

Since water keeps everything moving in the body, it will contribute to overall health and aid in having regular elimination and bowel movements.  It may also contribute to clearer thinking.  Keeping an elder hydrated will preserve their overall well-being.

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