Our elder is not fond of shower day. However, it is important and not just to make sure she’s clean. She has a serious medical condition that can lead to some serious complications. Those conditions can be seen, but only if there’s nothing covering them. Here are some examples. A few have occurred in the past and others are being watched for.
Nails: Finger and toenails say a lot about our physical condition. If they have a bluish tint, it may be a sign that there’s not enough oxygen in the bloodstream. Yellow nails can indicate a fungal infection…or jaundice. That I’ve actually seen. Clubbing in the nail bed is a possible indicator of heart disease.
Toes and feet: Our elder has hammertoes and they are painful. They also pose a risk for an open wound if improper shoes are worn. The doctor has had us watch a spot on one of her toes…which has gone away…because if it did open up it would not heal. While our elder isn’t a diabetic, a shower is a good opportunity to check for wounds on the feet. Diabetics have problems with nerves and may not feel a wound. They also have a harder time healing from a wound.
Red marks: This is rather hard to describe, but is fairly easily recognizable. Our elder had a red mark on her thigh. On that leg, she also had darker skin. It looked almost like a sock had been put on because the darker skin was in a uniform ring all around her leg. While we were getting permission to go to the hospital, the ring kept creeping higher up her leg.
This didn’t happen in the shower, but it is something that you can watch for. The diagnosis was three blood clots in her femoral vein. This didn’t surprise me, because I was told to watch for it.
Inflammation: Checking ankles and wrists for swelling is important. It can mean several things. The swelling can be from heart disease, kidney disease or an injury. Whatever the cause it is important that the doctor be told immediately.
Abuse: Elder abuse happens. When our elder was on in-home care, all of the caregivers made notes of bruises. Unexplained bruises scared them because it could be seen as their fault. In all cases the bruises had another explanation, but that is a good example of what to look for. In fact, a pattern of unexplained bruises, lacerations and other injuries should be watched for.
Helping an elder take a shower isn’t easy. It’s not easy for them…they’d prefer privacy but the risk of fall is too great. It isn’t easy for us. I’d really rather she had that privacy. However, it is needed. It could save a life, and not just from the risk of a fall.