Whether it’s brushing our teeth, taking a shower or changing our clothes, at an early age we all learn the importance of good personal hygiene. However, as we get older, physical limitations and psychological issues can make these daily tasks more difficult.
With many seniors, the aging process reinforces the loss of independence and control over their lives. As they begin to lose their sense of smell, they may not even notice anything wrong with their body odor. Seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s or depression, may lose interest in or forget about personal hygiene. Some seniors also may develop fears about falling or slipping when they shower or bathe.
When a sudden or gradual change in a senior’s personal hygiene develops, it is often an indicator of a larger issue and should not be ignored. It’s essential that you identify early warning signs and assist your loved one with his or her personal hygiene.
How to discuss personal hygiene
Maintaining proper hygiene includes bathing, brushing teeth, wearing clean clothes and regularly washing hands. Before an upcoming doctor’s appointment, it’s important to sit down with your loved one and talk about personal hygiene habits. It’s a delicate and sensitive subject, so you’ll need to convey a sense of concern and that you want to help, while showing respect and dignity.
Like anyone else, the elderly can easily feel embarrassed, belittled and even resentful about the subject of personal hygiene. When you broach the subject, your loved one may resist following your advice if he or she feels nagged. In some cases, it could be more beneficial for your loved one’s doctor or a professional caregiver to have this discussion, especially if it is symptomatic of a larger health issue.
How you can help
One of the most beneficial things you can do for a senior with personal hygiene issues is to purchase any products he or she might need. Depending on your loved one’s situation, you may need to reorganize the bathrooms and bedrooms to make everything more accessible. Here are some toiletry items you should include:
- Soap/body wash
- Antiperspirant or deodorant
- Toothpaste and/or mouthwash
- Perfume or cologne
- Laundry detergent
- Adaptive device, such as a bathtub or toilet rail
You also can purchase a calendar and write down any appointments, such as a haircut, or when you or a caregiver will come to assist with bathing, washing sheets and towels, or to help with shopping. Doing this will get your loved one into a better routine with personal hygiene.
Getting extra assistance for your loved one
There may be instances when you need to bring in extra assistance to help care for your senior’s daily needs and hygiene. Through county and state resources, you can find a qualified caregiver, a specialist that will come to the house (like a podiatrist), a hairdresser or other at-home service provider.
Realizing that age can affect your hygiene is sensitive and personal. At MetroHealth, we understand this and the many issues seniors face. Contact us if you have questions or concerns about how to help your loved one be proactive about personal hygiene and overall health.