Cleanliness is next to Godliness–Elderly hygiene concerns
Elderly hygiene challenges most caregivers. Whether your parent was always pristine clean or less concerned, many forego the daily routines if at all possible. Caregivers need to find ways to encourage cleanliness and ensure it’s safely accomplished.
Why the change?
Elderly, even those with dementia, continually fear falling. They know that a fall may mean hospitalization or physical therapy placement. Even the most obsessive about cleanliness may refuse a shower or bath, fearing a fall. Caregivers also express concern over the safety of their beloved elderly.
Modesty and embarrassment also factor in for many. Having always bathed themselves, they now find they need help. Disconcerting and uncomfortable, being bathed by someone else also reminds them of one more thing they can no longer do for themselves. Additionally, caregivers often feel uncomfortable with this necessary task.
Many seniors care less about personal hygiene due to the changes around them. They may feel apathetic due to less social interaction. Much like those days we choose to stay at home in pj’s or comfortable clothes, your Dad or Mom might want to relax and forego getting ready for what they perceive is nothing. Staying home each day does not lead to excitement about daily hygiene.
A need for control often causes poor hygiene in some elderly. Sometimes the decision to not brush their teeth seems to be the only one they are free to choose. Clothes may be laid out for them. Doctor appointments are planned around the family schedule. Families and doctors often choose meal options. However, the elderly person might choose to avoid that toothbrush some days. A person needs the ability to choose something.
Tips to help
Discovering the reason behind the elderly hygiene battle often helps resolve it. Offer choices where possible. For instance, if Dad doesn’t want to take a full bath, offer the choice of a sponge bath or shower, when possible. If you are able, offer a choice of who can help with the bathing. Some people feel more comfortable with a family member assisting, while others prefer a non-relative. from a caretaker service.
Many elderly, acutely aware that their body has changed over the years, prefer you partly cover them. A towel offers a bit of privacy. Consider whether a sheet may help when sponge bathing.
Occasionally offering new clothes often helps brighten the mood and increases attention to hygiene. Similarly, alternating soaps might give a reason to bathe.
Elderly hygiene is often improved with choice
While you as caretaker might resist taking a day off, a reluctant senior striving to maintain some sense of independence might respond well to such a change.
Some daily hygiene can be done less frequently. While teeth brushing should be done on schedule, shaving every other day or two might work better for Dad. Quite often, allowing elderly to choose causes them to want to increase the frequency. Unshaven faces, for instance, cause itching and discomfort for many men. Dad may choose to shave daily, when the choice is his.
Have the right supplies
Obviously, using towels, wash clothes, soap, and other supplies makes the job easier Assemble everything you need within easy reach before you begin. Explain to your loved one that you are ready to begin. Give them a choice where possible between type of soap, where to bathe, and time of day, when possible.
Relax. Elderly hygiene should not add stress.
The world does not end if Mom won’t wash her face today. Yes, the importance of skin care remains a high priority. However, often taking a “let him or her choose” attitude elicits more success than pressuring.
Finding the cause and then the solution enables you and your loved one to enjoy more time together. Avoiding arguments over hygiene or any other topic provides a calmer, happier relationship.
Still have questions? Contact us and we’ll try to help you find answers!
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