In this article, Sarah Jane Palmer discusses the importance of the prevention of skin tears and the role practice nurses can play
Skin tears can present a complex and chronic problem for an older patient with fragile skin, and can be very disabling, reducing quality of life dramatically in some cases. The right care is essential from all members of the wider team caring for older patients, in order to identify risk factors for skin tears, as well as formulating a care plan of prevention that relates to these risk factors. Good skin care is essential, as well as patient education, and identifying ongoing issues with the patient's health that present a factor to consider when caring for them, such as mobility issues. Self-care should be encouraged where possible, and the correct use and choice of emollients that are pH balanced is crucial. By preventing skin tears we not only give the patient a far better quality of life, but we also reduce the need for very limited NHS resources.
Skin tears are a big issue in the elderly population, whether in hospital or in the community, although epidemiological studies on skin tears are limited and the actual prevalence of skin tears is not truly understood. Older adults are more vulnerable to becoming not only exposed to the risk of developing skin tears but also in having a slow healing time (Gerstein et al, 1993) and complex problems following the incidence of the skin tear, that can lead to chronic, disabling or life-threatening consequences. As health professionals in general practice, we have a duty to recognise risk and take action to prevent skin tears from occurring in the first place. We can use our knowledge to take action, and this can be life changing for the patient in our care. This article will focus on the most recent guidance from 2018 from Wounds UK and Wounds International (LeBlanc et al, 2018).
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