Skin Tears Prevention and Management


A skin tear results from friction, shearing or injury to the skin.


As we age changes in the skin increase our risk of skin tears. Older adults commonly experience skin tears on the arms, hands and lower legs.

Skin tears often occur while transferring, using a wheelchair or after a fall. Skin tears can be difficult to prevent and treat.


What is a skin tear?


A skin tear occurs when the epidermis (top layer) of the skin becomes separated from the underlying layer (dermis).

Skin can become very fragile with age. Even the simplest movement, bump or knock can cause damage.



Skin tears often occur in people who are dependent on others for showering, dressing, and transferring. The use of lifting equipment and assistive devices increases the risk of skin tears.

People with confusion, poor vision and problems wandering can often bump into furniture or not recognize hazardous objects. Skin tears will often be sustained on the arms, lower legs or hands.

Complications from skin tears include infection. See your doctor or community nurse if skin shows any signs of inflammation or the skin appears painful, swollen and hot to touch.


Preventing Skin Tears


Residents living in nursing home facilities are at greater risk of developing skin tears.  Improper handling and lifting techniques often contribute to skin tears. Aged care staff must take caution when assisting residents with activities of daily living.

Keeping residents well hydrated and moisturizing the skin daily can help keep skin supple and prevent damage. Wearing protective sleeves and bandages can also help prevent skin tears from trauma.


Preventative Tips



Eucerin Skin Calming Body Lotion, 16.9 Ounce
  •  Pat skin dry, do not rub
  •  Increase fluid intake
  •  Wear long sleeves or pants
  •  Support dependent legs or arms with pillows
  •  Cushion sharp furniture corners
  •  Avoid grabbing a person by the arms



Fleece Wheelchair Arm Cushions 10" (pair)


Sheepskin Wheelchair Covers in Cream Model: Leg Pad


  •  Place bed protectors over bed rails to avoid limbs getting caught between rails
  •  Ensure environment is well lit



(2 Pack) Band-Aid Non-Stick Pads Medium 2 inch x 3 inch - 10 ct


 Avoid transferring or lifting a person by dragging them. Ask a community nurse to show you how to safely move a person without causing friction and shearing of the skin.


How can I protect the skin from damage?


Arm protectors and leg protectors are garments designed to fit around the arms or legs providing protection against injury, relieving pressure between bony areas and keeping limbs warm.

Some arm and leg protectors are lightly padded and fit snugly over the limbs with Velcro fastening. Others fit like a thick sock over the limb. Avoid any product that constricts the limb. Ask a community nurse or doctor for advice if you cannot get good clinical advice from a supplier.

SecureSleeves® Geri Skin Sleeves for Arms – Protects Sensitive Skin

SecureSleeves® Geri Skin Sleeves for Arms - Protects Sensitive Skin - One Pair - Medium - Brown - 15.5"-16" x 3.5"



Arm and leg protectors can be worn under clothes, in bed and wheelchairs or over dressings.


Dressing a Skin Tear



Arm & Hammer Simply Saline Wound Wash, 7.1 FZ (Pack of 4)
  • Secure the dressing and protect the wound with first aid tape or a bandage



3M Transpore Clear 1-Inch Wide First Aid Tape, 10-Yard Roll (2 Rolls)



  • For complicated dressings see a doctor or community nurse
  • Observe the wound for signs of infection including swelling, pain, ooze and redness


With due care and observation, many skin tears can be avoided.  If a skin tear does occur, gently clean and dress the area as soon as possible.  Seek medical attention if necessary.


You may also be interested in:

How to Prevent Bed Sores

How to Give a Sponge Bath in Bed

Coping With Incontinence

Risks of Bed Rails

Caregivers Can Reduce the Risks of Heavy Lifting

Caregivers Need Sleep!

The Drunk Caregiver

Natural Depression Remedies – What Works?

Top Pillows to Relieve Neck Pain

Make a Living Will/Health Care Directive

End of Life Nutrition

Dying Process – Dehydration

Introduction to Palliative and Hospice Care

10 Myths About Hospice

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