Hygiene Tips for the Elderly

Hygiene Tips for ElderlyIf you’re a caregiver, you may have to address uncomfortable issues such as poor hygiene with the elderly individuals in your life. As a grown child trying to care for a parent, how should this situation be handled? Hygiene can be a touchy subject to address with anyone, let alone an elderly loved one in your life. Telling a person that he or she looks unkempt or has body odor can be uncomfortable, and you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings.

The Root of the Issue

Encouraging good grooming habits for an aging parent can be a difficult situation to handle. The first step is to figure out why poor hygiene may be occurring. A direct approach may yield surprising results. Ask if there is a problem and why it occurred. Listen carefully to the response, as the answer may already be apparent to the elder person. Some common reasons why an older person may not bathe include:

  • Forgetfulness and more severe forms of memory loss.
  • Physical limitations caused by pain or physical disabilities.
  • Lack of awareness due to decreased sense of smell or low visual acuity.
  • Fear of falling in the shower or being scalded by hot water. The resulting injuries could be life changing.
  • Depression causes a decrease in motivation to perform activities of daily living. Bathing gets forgotten about when it is hard to even get out of bed. Sometimes this simple chore is too overwhelming.

Striking the Right Balance

If a loved one does have poor hygiene, be as compassionate and caring as possible. The only goal is that your loved one remains healthy. You’ll need to encourage better habits and try making bathing a pleasant experience that is non-threatening and relaxing. But this actually brings us to another hurdle – how often do you encourage bathing?

For most of us, bathing or showering is a daily requirement to participate in a civilized society. But how does that requirement change as we age? It’s important for the elderly to bathe and maintain good hygiene, but we also need to be cognizant of how the human body changes over time.

For example, experts do not recommend washing the entire body every day, as the skin will dry out. Washing the back, legs and arms only needs to occur a few times a week. However, washing private areas such as underarms, the groin and under the breasts should occur on a daily basis. These areas secrete thicker sweat than other areas of the body and could cause strong odors when mixed with bacteria. Washing under fleshy folds will also help to reduce fungal growth and other issues that may occur.

Bathing too much or not enough could both have adverse effects.

Bathing Too Much May Cause

  • Itchiness
  • Parched dry skin
  • Aggravation of pre-existing conditions such as eczema and dermatitis
Bathing Too Little May Cause 

  • Fungal growth
  • Odor
  • Skin breakdown
  • Rash and cracking

Encourage the elderly to take note of any skin issues as they bathe more or less frequently.

All-Inclusive Care Options

And if you’re in need of comprehensive care assistance, our Beacon of Life Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) program offers comprehensive care in an adult day care setting. A team of health care professionals is on-site to make sure participant needs are met and goals are achieved.

For more information, contact us at 732-592-3400, info@beaconhss.com or click here.

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