Elderly and Hygiene Issues

As people age and lose their mobility, they often find it much more difficult to perform even the simplest of tasks. More complex tasks like personal care and hygiene can become near impossible to do alone.  There can be many reasons why an elderly individual sometimes doesn’t take care of him or herself in this area, and it’s important that we understand why. We’ll look at a couple reasons, and then what we can do to help them take better care of themselves. 

Let’s take a look.

First, one reason that an elderly person is disregarding personal hygiene could be that the elder is depressed. If you notice your loved one or friend beginning to have issues with keeping clean or wearing clean clothes, you might want to see if depression is the culprit. It’s also a good idea to check with the doctor, especially if they are low on energy as well. 

Another potential reason why they aren’t bathing could be a simple decrease in both sight and smell. They can’t deal with something they don’t know is there. Our senses age right along with our bodies, so it’s very possible that it could be that they just don’t notice it.

The final issue we’ll look at now is fear or discomfort. As we age, it can be harder and harder to get in and out of the tub, and easier to slip in the shower and seriously injure ourselves. This can be especially dangerous for someone with Alzheimer’s because they may not realize why there is water running down them or they may believe they could get sucked down the drain. They just may not understand.

So what are some ways that you can help them to take care of themselves? It could be something as simple as having a friend phone them and invite them to lunch. If they have a friend close by, having that reason to get cleaned up and go out is much more apt to get them moving and clean, along with an “I don’t care what you look or smell like if you don’t” attitude by their adult children.

If they will go in the shower but are afraid of water, something as simple as a shower chair may be just the thing to bring them some peace of mind and allow them (or you) to get themselves cleaned up.

If the person suffers from dementia, remember to take things slowly. Don’t simply insist they shower or bathe; instead, offer to wipe their face off and gradually move around the body.

When it comes down to it though, sometimes you might just have to lower your standards a bit. This is a different time in the elder’s life. Lots of things are happening, and you know that if he or she was in a right state of mind, they would want to look or smell nice. At the same time, with everything that’s going on, they’re simply in a different mode. If you nag or harp on the situation too much, you’ll risk driving a wedge between you.

It’s important that you just do your best. You may not get them spotless, but if you implement these tips, you should be able to see improvements.