Radiation dermatitis is a common side effect of radiation therapy used to treat cancer. Up to 95 percent of people who undergo radiation therapy experience at least some level of radiation dermatitis. Symptoms usually start within two weeks of radiation therapy beginning and can continue for years after treatment has ended.
If your aging relative is undergoing radiation therapy, understanding this common side effect and what you can do about it could make their treatment more comfortable.
How Radiation Dermatitis Happens
Radiation therapy is delivered either externally or internally. Its purpose is to change the DNA of cancer cells and cause them to die. The dosage of radiation the patient receives is determined on a case by case basis.
Radiation therapy has come a long way since it was first used. Doctors try to minimize its effect on healthy cells, but some damage is unavoidable. When skin cells near the area being treated are affected, it can cause side effects like radiation dermatitis. In addition, when radiation therapy is combined with chemotherapy, it becomes even more toxic to the body, increasing the chances of radiation dermatitis.
Radiation Dermatitis Symptoms
Symptoms of radiation dermatitis vary depending on several factors. People can experience mild to severe symptoms, which may include:
* Skin that appears red or pink.
* Swollen skin, called edema.
* Skin that is dry and peeling.
* Thinning and weakened skin.
Doctors classify the severity of radiation dermatitis in the following manner:
Grade 1: Skin is slightly red and is peeling.
Grade 2: Skin is moderately red and swollen. There may also be some thinning of the skin in folds.
Grade 3: Skin is thinning more than 1.5 centimeters across. Thinning is present in places other than skin folds and severe swelling is present.
Grade 4: Skin cells are dying and there are deep skin ulcers present.
Managing Radiation Dermatitis at Home
There are several steps you can take at home to help soothe radiation dermatitis in your aging relative. To treat dry, itchy skin, try:
* Apply mineral oil or baby oil to the skin after bathing while the skin is still damp. Or, add oil to bathwater.
* Use cool or warm water to wash, not hot. Also, do not scrub the skin during washing.
* Use moisturizer at least twice per day. Calamine lotion or witch hazel can help with itching.
* Do not apply products that contain alcohol to the skin, including colognes and perfumes.
* Offer extra fluids.
Elder care can help to manage radiation dermatitis. An elder care provider can help your family member to apply moisturizers or calamine lotion. Elder care can also help the senior to bathe safely in cool or warm water, ensuring they don’t fall when getting in or out of the tub.
If you or an aging loved one are considering Elder Care Services in Evanston IL, contact the caring staff at Gentle Home Services. Call today (800) 860-9823.
Challenging Elder Care: Is Your Loved One Afraid to Bathe or Shower?
Elder Care in Evanston IL
Ensuring that your elderly loved one is kept clean is an important part of your elder care efforts for her. If she has started showing fear or anxiety related to bathing or showering, however, it can become a tremendous hassle in your routine. You know how important it is for your loved one to have proper hygiene. Staying fresh and clean not only helps your parent feel her best, but it also helps to keep her skin and body healthy and resistant to infection and illness. For many elderly adults, however, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia can bring about intense anxiety. This can make it difficult and even dangerous for these seniors and their family caregivers to keep up with a regular hygiene routine. Understanding this fear and using techniques to resolve it can help to make taking care of your loved one simpler, more comfortable, and less stressful for all of you.
There are various reasons that your parent may show fear and anxiety when it is time to bathe or shower. Some of these, and what you and your parent's elderly health care services provider can do to help ease them, include:
• Sound of the water. For a senior who is dealing with the confusion and disorientation of Alzheimer's disease, the loud sound of water running into the tub can be extremely frightening. They may not understand what the sound is or associate it with something much more dangerous, such as a storm. Help to ease this by running the water into the tub before she comes into the bathroom or by choosing a shower rather than a bath.
• Confusion about depth. The fear may also stem from your senior worrying that the water is too deep. It can be difficult for an elderly adult who is dealing with cognitive decline to estimate the depth of the water and understand that it is not deep enough to be dangerous. Reassure your parent by having a measuring tool that you can show to your parent and then dip into the water. This will demonstrate how deep the water actually is so that your parent can feel more in control and less fearful of the water.
• Worry about falling. A senior who struggles with balance or mobility issues may be afraid of falling in the shower or bath. Stepping into and out of the tub can seem daunting. The act of showering requires stretching, bending, lifting the feet, and reaching. All of these can worsen balance and make a senior feel totally out of control. Help him to feel more secure by replacing a traditional shower with a walk-in tub or placing a shower bench in the tub so that she can sit while bathing.
• Modesty. If your parent has always been modest, the anxiety revolving around bathing or showering may come from the discomfort of needing help from you. Consider having an elderly health care services provider come in to handle this task. Having a neutral person handle her bathing can put her at ease and make her more cooperative. This is especially true if your parent has forgotten the need or purpose of bathing. Because the care provider is a professional, your parent may be more willing to trust that person and go along with the bathing process.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elder care in Evanston, IL, contact the caring staff at Gentle Home Services. Call today (800) 860-9823.