Early in October last year Anna's skin started to flake. And when I say flake, I really mean flake. His legs looked like they had dandruff. Not loose dandruff that can be brushed off. It was as if the skin was peeling off but was still attached by a tenuous thread. And it was more on his legs than his arms; his face, meanwhile, looked as well moisturised as that of a baby's!
I teased him a couple of times about how he was shedding like a snake. The first couple of times he did not react. Then one day, he says, "It can't be like a snake's. We would be able to see a continuous sheath of skin. You have to find another term."
And so I did. I just called it flaked skin!
I wasn't sure if I should run off to the doctor. I asked Anna if his skin itched and he said, "No." As the skin was not broken/cracked and it didn’t irritate him, I decided not to make a trip to the doctor. I decided to research on the internet and find solutions.
To ‘Baby Soft’ Skin!
One of the primary reasons for dry skin in the elderly is the absence of oil glands. Also, all my research told me that Anna had to avoid hot baths, use a moisturising soap, not use a heater/air conditioner, moisturise skin with a hydrophobic ointment/lotion, drink lots of water and avoid alcohol. All of which he did.
Anna is massaged everyday with mustard oil. We use a gentle glycerin soap for bathing. After a bath, he is again massaged with a Vaseline/cocoa butter lotion. Nothing worked to improve his skin. Then I decided to replace the lotion with coconut oil. And voilà, in 2 days all his flaking skin was gone! I couldn't believe it! It was again soft and wrinkly smooth. Now I could happily tell Anna, "Your skin is far more baby-soft than mine is!"
I have struggled with dry skin all my life. It is so bad that I even get dry patches on my stomach and back. When I saw coconut oil work so well with Anna, I decided to use it myself. Even though I did not like the smell of coconut oil on my skin, I bore the ever-so-slight discomfort for the health of my skin. And it worked! Surprisingly well!
I was so pleased with the effect of coconut oil, that at the first opportunity I got, I proudly pulled up the sleeve of my shirt and showed Anna my arm.
Me: Anna, look at my arm. Is it looking different?
Anna: It looks like your arm.
Me (running my nail over my forearm): Anna, see my skin is no longer dry.
Anna: How come?
Me: Anna, I used coconut oil. Just like we used on you.
Anna: I hope it was pharmaceutical-grade coconut oil.
Me: No Anna. I used Parachute coconut oil.
Anna: You should only use pharmaceutical-grade coconut oil.
Me: Why Anna?
Anna: You are young. You should use only pharmaceutical-grade coconut oil. Your skin has to last longer.
Me (I giggle a little at being called "young"): OK, Anna.
– We continue to use a variety of techniques and lotions to keep Anna's skin moisturised and soft.
As I do for mine.
(After working in corporate India for over 29 years, Sangeeta has taken time off to look after her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. Sangeeta hopes that these authentic stories will help patients and caregivers understand and appreciate the impact of Parkinson’s Disease. You can follow Sangeeta’s blog here.)
Related Links in the Series:
From a Real Life Piku: Looking After an Elderly ‘Child’
My Anna Holds on to his Bata Sandals, Even as He Loses his Memory
Who Knew That Nutella Would Convince My Old Dad to Take his Pills?
For a Dad with Parkinson’s, I’d Get Him All the Junk Food He Wants
Pray, Why Does My 87-Year-Old Anna Need an Aadhaar Card?
When Anna Forgot the Words for Pain & Medicine & Suffered Quietly
I Have a Dad With Parkinson’s (& Here’s What I Don’t Need to Hear)
A Dialogue: The Day I Saw My Dad For the Feminist That He Is
Anna and I Finally Went on our Much-Awaited Coffee Date