Overcoming Showering Challenges and Improving Hygiene for Seniors
Personal hygiene is important for people of all ages. Most of us don’t need to be reminded that without regular cleansing, we leave our bodies susceptible to not just smelling bad but feeling poorly. Naturally, there are numerous bacteria that can develop from improper washing, and these can lead to severe illnesses. This is especially true for our elderly. Therefore, it can be argued that personal hygiene is more important for seniors than for anyone else.
The problem, as many caregivers have experienced, is that many seniors dislike bathing. It’s not that older people wish to not smell and feel their best. It’s just that many of them forget to clean properly, aren’t physically capable of cleaning themselves, or feel embarrassed by having a caregiver do the cleaning for them. Nevertheless, it is important to find ways to help your elderly loved ones maintain their personal hygiene to better their overall health.
In this article, we will discuss the consequences of ignoring these challenges, the benefits of maintaining and improving good hygiene, and how we can help our elderly loved ones face and overcome these challenges.
The Impact Of Poor Hygiene On The Elderly
Poor hygiene can impact a person’s life negatively in many ways. There is a widespread social stigma attached to producing foul odors, wearing unclean clothes, and having stained teeth, unkempt hair, and dirty fingernails. However, the problems associated with poor hygiene extend far beyond unfavorable opinions.
Health Implications For Not Having Good Personal Hygiene
This is especially true for senior citizens. With aging comes greater susceptibility to illness. Keeping clean, therefore, is integral to better overall health. As SeniorHealth365.com points out, there are many medical consequences that elderly people need to take into consideration.
“Poor personal hygiene can lead to skin infections with bacteria and fungi and parasitic infestations of the skin and hair,” explains the website, “This can be transmitted to others in close contact with the person. The consequences are not isolated to the outside of the body. Unclean hands, utensils, and crockery can increase the chances of diseases like gastroenteritis and food poisoning.”
SeniorHealth365.com goes on to explain that one’s poor hygiene can have potentially fatal consequences for seniors. The spread of infection can lead those with weakened immune systems to develop conditions like septicemia, which is blood poisoning. Needless to say, it’s vital that seniors practice good hygiene. However, it’s a common occurrence to encounter an older adult who is hesitant to take regular baths or showers.
Fear of Slipping and Falling Causing Seniors to Avoid Bathing
There are several factors that cause older adults to avoid the bathtub or shower. They include a fear of slipping and falling. In many of our past blogs, we’ve highlighted the dangers of the bathroom and the fact that slips and falls lead to the majority of hospitalizations of American seniors each year.
In addition, diminished strength and balance, which is commonplace in our advanced years, make it so that caregivers are required to assist with the bathing process. This creates shame and embarrassment for many elderly people.
Loss of Independence Causes an Emotional Strain That Can Be Hard to Overcome
As Carol Bradley Bursack explains, depression can cause seniors to lose interest in how they look or smell. “If a loved one who used to wear makeup, bathe regularly, or insist on crisply pressed clothes suddenly stops taking care of themselves, it’s wise to rule out depression first.,” she writes, “A simple checkup with a doctor is a good idea, especially if low energy or lack of interest seems to be part of this change in behavior. Depression isn’t always obvious to an observer, so keep an eye out for the warning signs.”
Bursack also explains that hearing loss and vision problems are other reasons why many seniors avoid bathing. As well, keep in mind that their senses of smell may not be as strong as they once were. Bursack points out that some elderly people are known for their overuse of perfume – a direct result of a diminished sense of smell.
Let’s not forget that memory loss can also play a factor in poor hygiene among seniors. Gentle reminders will help the senior in your life to take a shower he/she may have thought was taken just yesterday.
What Are the Top Benefits of Good Personal Hygiene for Older Adults?
A person who keeps clean keeps healthy. Needless to say, maintaining good health is imperative for older adults. Unfortunately, poor personal hygiene habits can lead to the onset of ailments and illnesses. Among them are dental problems. As Seattle’s Fedelta Home Care details, dental problems aren’t just painful, they can also be expensive.
“Brushing teeth, using mouthwash, and flossing every day is more important as you get older,” declares their website, “If a senior has dentures, then they should also make sure they clean their dentures after eating food. Neglecting dental care can also lead to heart problems which (are) a major reason why dental care should be a major priority for seniors.”
It Helps to Maintain Their Physical Health
Cleanliness is next to healthfulness. Yes, we know that’s not the traditional idiom. However, it doesn’t make it any less true. When you maintain good personal hygiene, you maintain good physical health. This is true for people of all ages. But imagine just how important it is for seniors who are more susceptible to the onset of numerous health conditions to keep clean.
“As we age, our immune system is not as robust as it once was, and that means germs and viruses are more of an enemy than ever,” notes Miami Home Care Services, “Hand-washing before handling food and after visiting the facilities if not already a habit should become one…Be on alert for situations where germs may be abundant, such as hospitals or public transit, and use sanitizer or antibacterial soap.”
It Keeps Them Comfortable
No one likes that sticky and sweaty feeling. But that is what happens when you go a day or two without a bath. And although some seniors are opposed to regular bathing, it’s hard for them to deny that the fresh and clean feeling following a shower is a great one. It’s especially important to remind your elderly loved one to bathe if he/she struggles with memory loss. Don’t allow his/her mental condition to create an uncomfortable living situation.
“Have you ever gone a couple of days without taking a shower or a bath?” asks Louise Savoie of Cam Caregivers, “You end up feeling hot, sticky, and downright uneasy. It’s not the best experience, is it? Just imagine how much more uncomfortable it would be for your senior loved one! But when your elderly family member is able to have a shower or bath at the regular, it will allow them to rest better and simply just be more comfortable all around.”
It Encourages Them to Feel Good About Themselves
If you want to help the elderly loved one in your life grow his/her confidence, it’s wise to encourage better personal hygiene upkeep. Looking and smelling good helps people to feel good. It’s that simple!
“Seniors who make sure their hair, nails, and skin are in good condition present a positive image to the world,” insists Miami Home Care Services, “The world will look back respectfully, far more so than if the seniors let themselves go. Confidence and positive opinion go toward a better mental outlook. Good mental health is the difference between better living and living well.”
How to Help Older Adults With Their Personal Hygiene Routines
It’s not uncommon for seniors to slack on their daily self-cleaning routines. They’re not to be blamed for it, either. A combination of mobility issues and feelings of depression can contribute to less-than-stellar upkeep of an elderly person’s personal hygiene requirements. Here’s what you can do to help:
1. Discover the Reasons for The Poor Hygiene
Is your elderly loved one suffering from depression and/or anxiety? Are there times when memory loss plays a factor? Does the senior in your home feel afraid to use the bathroom? Is he/she suffering from any mobility issues? According to Kunnath, poor hygiene in older adults is sometimes related to things in the immediate environment that is entirely correctable.
“Determine if this may be the case by taking a look around your parent’s home to see if you can identify likely reasons for the hygiene issues,” she advises. Possible solutions could include having grab bars installed in the bathroom, placing regularly used hygiene products within easy reach, and investing in a tub that’s more accessible.
2. Be Open and Honest with Your Loved One
Communication is a vital part of any strong relationship. This includes the relationship you have with the older adult in your home. Be open and honest but very respectful when discussing your loved one’s need to keep up with his/her personal hygiene. As Angie Kunnath of South Carolina’s From The Heart Home Care points out, some seniors have a difficult time admitting they need help with daily grooming tasks.
“This hesitation to ask for help could be why they’re having increasingly noticeable issues with hygiene,” she writes, “Let your loved one know what specific hygiene issues you’ve been noticing. Suggest visiting the doctor to see if medical issues may be a factor. Remind your loved one that it’s perfectly normal to need this type of assistance during the later years of life.”
3. Seek Professional In-Home Care
Sometimes, you simply can’t handle all the caregiving yourself. For many caregivers, it is necessary to seek out the help of professionals. There are numerous resources out there. Research in-home care services in your area to locate the ideal professional caregiver for your elderly loved one. These professionals are regularly trained in providing assistance with personal hygiene routines.
“Home caregivers are an excellent source for support and assistance in caring for your aging loved one,” writes Jon Martin of Toronto’s Affinity Health, “Professional caregivers are trained to approach delicate situations like personal care with respect, discretion, and compassion. Outside help can make the situation seem less arduous and can reduce the strain and tension on your relationship with your loved one by offering a little breathing room.”
4. Be Mindful of Your Loved One’s Skin Conditions
Some seniors are hesitant to bathe because of issues with their skin. Remember that older adults have more sensitive skin than their younger counterparts. As a result, they get cold or hot quicker than most of us. Also, if your elderly loved one has a particular skin condition, you must be aware of the ingredients of the cleansing products you use.
“Your loved one may not like to bathe frequently due to poor bone health or skin conditions,” notes Zareena Khan of Edmonton, Alberta’s Home Care Assistance, “Therefore, you should consider these health issues when creating a bathing routine. Schedule full baths every other day to prevent aches and pains or skin irritation and dryness. If your loved one’s health worsens, you may need to reduce bathing to once or twice per week, which can still prevent skin breakdown and infections.”
5. Assist With Shaving
The act of keeping clean isn’t all about soap and body wash. Proper grooming is a significant part of maintaining good personal hygiene. Your elderly loved one, however, may forget to shave. Perhaps, they just don’t have the energy to perform regular shaving routines. As Angie Kunnath of Waterloo, Ontario’s Home Care Assistance, notes, the act of shaving can become more difficult as we age.
“While shaving doesn’t necessarily offer health benefits, it can help your loved one maintain positive self-esteem, feel more groomed, and make other personal hygiene tasks easier to manage,” she notes, “Consider having your loved one switch to an electric razor if he/she doesn’t already use one. Electric razors are larger and easier for many seniors to manage, and they also reduce the risk of accidental cuts due to unsteady hands.”
6. Trim Their Nails Regularly
Needless to say, we all use our hands every day. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, we have all been advised to keep those hands of ours as clean as possible. Frequent handwashing continues to be recommended. However, it’s also wise to trim your fingernails on a regular basis. It will help to avoid the presence of bacteria on the hands and under the nail beds.
“Trimming your nails often is a great way to eliminate the bacteria that live under your nail beds,” informs Oklahoma’s Saint Simeon’s, “Keeping your fingernails and toenails clean will help you avoid infections.”
7. Use Scented Hygiene Products
A person’s sense of smell can diminish with age. It can be related to a loss of nerve endings and a slowing down of mucus production in the nose. This is why older adults can benefit from using cleansing products with fresh scents. We’re talking soaps, body washes, and shampoos that help to make people feel particularly clean and fresh. Look for your loved one’s favorite scents, but remember to be conscious of the ingredients so that they do not irritate the skin.
“When choosing scented products, make sure the items won’t irritate your loved one’s skin or make him or her feel nauseated,” warns Khan, “Keep the products handy, so your loved one doesn’t need to step out of the shower to reach them and increase the risk of falling. When applying lotions and skin moisturizers, using a gentle touch to make the process more pleasant could ease your loved one’s mind when it comes to grooming.”
8. Keep All Personal Hygiene Products Handy
Don’t make it difficult for your elderly loved one to keep clean. Bear in mind that older adults require as much ease and convenience as possible when it comes to performing just about any daily routine. The last thing you want is for your aging parent to decide against a shower because he/she can’t find the body wash. Make sure that all cleaning products are readily available and easily within reach.
“Gathering supplies and having them at arm’s reach can be very helpful,” contends Debbie Wolf of Arizona’s Home Helpers, “You don’t want to be in the middle of a shower only to discover that the shampoo is missing or you’re out of soap. Make sure you bring towels and washcloths with you and have everything ready to use.”
9. Take Daily Showers
To some people, a daily shower is unnecessary. However, it is certainly hard to argue that taking a shower at least once a day won’t help to stave off bacteria and other germs that can create health issues for older adults. Showering before bed every night is a worthwhile rule of thumb for senior citizens. Establishing a regular routine is a highly recommended tip for seniors.
Saint Simeon advises seniors to shower daily. “This will help remove bacteria and other irritants from your skin and reduce your risk of rashes or other skin problems,” says their website, “Wash your hands often to avoid the spread of viruses and bacteria. Make sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds any time you come into contact with surfaces that haven’t just been cleaned.”
Take Advantage of Shower Bay
When Forward Day came up with the Shower Bay portable shower, we knew it would help seniors to restore their independence. Shower Bay can be snapped together in any room of the home, enabling shower wheelchair users to enter for safe and comfortable shower experiences easily. For more information about these revolutionary portable showers, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-877-593-4461 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.