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Mom has been picking the skin off of her arms, legs and back. The arms and hands are looking the worst. She keeps picking at the scabs which causes bleeding. I got fidgety tools, but she has refused to use them. The arms just look awful. I am at a loss. Any help would be appreciated.

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I am 52 years old and have frontal lobe dementia; diagnosed at 50. After looking into solutions for my own cuticle and skin picking, I took the advice of one blogger and began having biweekly manicures for acrylic nails; a friend drives me and I look forward to the outing as part of my routine. It is virtually impossible for me to pick at my cuticles and skin with fake fingernails, and it's a bonus that they look great all the time. I know this is not a viable solution for everyone with dementia, but maybe something to consider for some.
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I mix together equal parts Organic Coconut Oil and Palmer's Cocoa Butter in a round/short plastic storage container that has a lid. I then microwave 15 seconds at a time and stir until almost melted (coconut melts entirely but not the cocoa butter). I then carefully move dish to a paper towel on shelf in refrigerator. Check periodically and stir to keep the mix together. Eventually it goes into my Aunt's drawer who has severe dementia. This cream is used regularly and always over whole body after shower. Her skin went from paper thin and bruising which caused her to pick at it to healthy. Her MD cannot believe the improvement after one year of this treatment. I rub in using light massage after her twice weekly showers and that helps the skin to also thicken. Same action as a callous forming but massage improves circulation and helps strengthen the layers of skin. I was able to get my Aunt addicted to puzzles and although she now struggles with them, it does still occupy her time so she keeps her hands busy. I use the Ravensburger 100 piece puzzles and have two set up at table at all times. I remove about 15-20 pieces from the puzzle and place them on each side closest to their spot. I prop up the box with the picture. She will work all day on these and listen to her music and then we do TV in the evenings. When she has completed one puzzle she moves to the other side of table and starts the other one. I try to check on her regularly and just pull out another 15-20 pieces from the completed one and she will go back and forth all day. I feel guilty yet it keeps her hands busy and not picking at her skin.
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We gave my MIL a baby doll to hold and she scratches the baby's back all day.
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My mother had this disorder, called Dermatillomania. She started when she was about 82, before she was diagnosed with Dementia. Although she probably was starting to show mild signs that went unnoticed. She was on several drugs, some would work for awhile. She picked constantly, we used neosporin and bandaids on the open sores. Shortly before she turned 86 she went on hospice care and they took her off most of her meds, the picking stopped. It has been 9 months with very little picking. We are thankful but really don't know what started the picking or why it stopped. It is a compulsion and nagging doesn't help. I know how frustrating it must be for you. Just try to keep her skin clean and covered with a bandaid or ointment. Elderly skin is delicate so be careful with the bandaids. Good luck.
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When my Dad was in the hospital and he was picking to the point of bleeding, the nurses put something over his hands/fingers that looked like soft little socks. I felt it was restrictive and didn't like the idea of them. However, he wasn't very aware at the time and it did solve the problem. He would still scratch, but it didn't leave marks. I didn't use them at home, and I wouldn't want to use them permanently.
At home, I kept his fingernails short, and gave him a handtowel to grab onto and pull at. Where there were scabs, I used cloth bandaids with gentle adhesive to protect the skin. He might pick at them, but better to pick at a bandaid than skin.
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Hi there, I go through the same thing with my mom from time to time - which is the best hope I can offer. At least with her, the picking comes and goes in "phases". It is a periodic behavior.

Sometimes, especially when it involves her face, it looks terrible to others and they will ask what has happened. It drives me crazy also, and I am constantly applying anti-bacterial and bandaids (which are like another scab, just something to pick off), and cleaning her nails in hopes of preventing a bad infection.

Sitting on the toilet does seem to be the place where this most often occurs, and I tend to not let her "hang out" there any longer than necessary when she is in a picking phase - get her done, up, and out.

Have also tried the fidget tools, but they go untouched. Of course, engagement in anything is key - but that is one of my biggest battles daily, finding ways/things to engage her. I believe for some, anxiety meds have helped with this, but that is not an option for us. Eventually, she just seems to stop, and things heal for a time. And then, for whatever reason - presumably increased anxiety or boredom - she will start up again. (The time in between bouts of it lasting much longer than the actual picking phase.) Again, that's my saving grace. (The old "this too shall pass".)

For what it's worth, I believe this obsessive behavior has a name: excoriation. You might try looking up that term (in association with dementia). I've done it, but not recently. And ultimately found it was just something we have to deal with in our own way. But, as usual, it was at least something to know it wasn't just some weird oddity in our world - that it is relatively common.

Best of luck to you, and hugs and prayers for all on this site! Have a blessed day!
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My DH doesn't have Dementia but he is aging at 95 years old.

He was constantly scratching and picking like you describe. I finally thought, this is almost like an allergy. I started him on Benadryl (while in hospital) and he did stop!

At home, Benadryl is too strong and knocks him out. If you have a Sam's Club, the cheapest is their brand in tablet form and I give him 1/2 morning and 1/2 at night - it stopped his constant scratching and picking at the scabs. It is called "Members Mark diphenhydramine" and the bottle of 600 will last more than a year for us.

You will need to use "Triple Antibiotic Cream" until the scabbing is gone or the picking will continue - really, any good cream should help as her skin is most likely dry too. Curel makes a lot of good creams and you can find them at Walmarts.
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Gosh, I have done this all my life, since I was a teen. I can't stand to have scabs. But it really does no harm that I can see, I don't get infections--it probably does take longer to heal, but heal it eventually does. Maybe I need psychiatric help!
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just chiming in, my mom also picks at her cuticles constantly but she always did. Also about those fidget cubes, etc., my mom also refuses to use!!! Wish I had that $13 back.
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I would see if the problem with anxiety, depression or what ever is causing her to pick and scratch could be addressed.
The scratching is a sign, symptom of an underlying problem.
The longer it continues the more of a habit it will become.
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Thanks, I will.
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The staff at her facility probably have dealt with this many times. It would be worth talking to them.
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No, just all you kind people
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Well darn it! There are some good ideas here, but this is a tough compulsion to deal with! Have you discussed it with the staff at the ALF?
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she's never appears anxious or even bored. Just does this while watching tv, sitting on the toilet, after she gets up in the morning, just sitting at the edge of the bed, just picking away. I just hate seeing her arms and legs looking like she has some kind of disease. When people ask her how they got that way, she says from hitting into elevator doors. That's been two years ago since living in the assistive living facility. Well, thanks to all of you.
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I would discuss it with her doctor. With dementia, sometimes the patient gets anxious and anxiety can cause the picking, fidgeting, etc. My LO bites her nails and fingers when she's anxious. She has severe Dementia. She takes medication for anxiety and depression and it really helps her. I noticed recently, that her finger nails are growing! She used to bite them so short. Apparently, she is not stressed out now and is so content that she no longer bites her fingernails or fingers. It's such a relief.
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Yes, have plenty bandaids as well. Thanks for you help
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Sorry double post
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My aunts dr noticed a place on top of her nose that had been bleeding. She was concerned it might be skin cancer. She said to put a bandaid on it to see if it would heal. If it did fine. If not go to a dermatologist. The band aids worked. In just a few days the nose was healed. She would touch the bandaid and remember that it was there. She also gave a cortisone cream to be applied daily. Once that was gone we continued with lotions daily on her arms and legs where she had been scratching. She has an aid for a couple of hours each morning. The aid just puts some lotion in my aunts hand and has her rub her arms and legs herself wherever it itched. It has helped keep the skin moist and less likely to scab. We also push fluids and keep her nails clipped short. We also use ALL free and clear detergent to keep allergens down. It is a compulsion and I know she will continue but when there is nothing left to pick, it isn't as satisfying. Keep the band aids handy.
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I too, have plenty of the Neosporin around. Mom, is not itching at all, it's constant picking and pulling at the skin until it bleeds. Seriously, just makes me nuts. Thanks!
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My mother also watches TV all day. The only thing I worry about is infection, but she always has her Neosporin handy for any cut or rub.

I just thought of one thing that can have "magic" properties with my mother -- hydrocortisone creme. I tell her the doctor says it will make the itch go away. You can get it OTC. It works best if it is doctor recommended in their minds. (Of course, it is actually doctor recommended. Dermatologist often write prescriptions for it for itchy skin. Just don't let her use it on too large an area.)
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Mom, does have dementia also and I'm told this is all part of it. She would just take the mittens off, ask her to put lotion on, as she claims that she picking dry skin, but she's not, picking at the scabs. Thanks for your input as I do try to keep her from boredom, just would rather watch tv and read her newspapers.
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My mother with dementia is always doing something with her hands. She rubs lotion on the a lot, scratches here and there, and picks at them. She puts calamine lotion on "poison ivy" and scratches the top off of bumps. She fidgets with her hands all day and puts itch lotion on them. If I say anything, she'll simply say that they dry or they itch. I've not been able to get her to stop.

My mother's dermatologist told us that older people often inflict damage on their own skin by scratching at it. The only solution I can think of for someone who does this is mittens. :) It drives me crazy to watch my mother rubbing and fidgeting with her hands all day. I know how you feel. I think much of it is boredom and too much attention to self.
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