Senior hygiene often tops the list of caregiver duties. In fact, almost half of all adults over the age of 65 need help with daily activities, according to a recent analysis from the Department of Health and Human Services. In many cases, this includes bathing, brushing and flossing teeth, combing hair, and other tasks that are vital to health and cleanliness. Knowing how to assist your loved one with her personal hygiene can help make the process safer and less stressful.
Senior Hygiene Limitations
It can be emotionally difficult for seniors to lose the ability to maintain their own hygiene. That’s why it’s important to determine how much assistance your loved one truly needs. Whether he’s unable to bathe properly due to physical limitations or because of cognitive issues, your senior should be allowed as much independence as possible. For example, if your aging father can easily clean his own upper body but gets dizzy when he bends over, then he may only need your assistance for his back and lower legs. Allowing him to do as much as he can for himself will help maintain his independence, confidence, and control over the process.
In some cases, it may be possible to allow your loved one to bathe independently. If your senior has difficulty safely standing in the shower due to an increased bathroom fall risk, a doctor may be able help you by recommending the right assistive technology. Shower stools and other devices can be used in conjunction with waterproof medical alert devices, granting you and your loved one the peace of mind that comes with knowing that help is always nearby.
When it comes to senior hygiene, it is important to remember that you have three primary responsibilities: keeping your loved one calm, reducing fall and health hazards, and ensuring she is clean. When it comes to the shower, discourage her from hurrying. Rushing will only cause stress, which will prevent your loved one from feeling calm and safe.
If you’re helping your loved one shower, take things slowly. Start by ensuring that there is a safe, non-slip surface on the shower floor, and by heating the water to a comfortable temperature that’s not too hot or too cold. Ease your senior into the shower slowly. Once she’s adjusted, confidently explain, one step at a time, what you’re doing as you help her wash. Talking your loved one through this process will help keep her calm.
Don’t overlook the importance of dental health. Keeping your senior’s teeth and gums healthy not only ensures she can eat a well-balanced, nutritional diet, but can help prevent infections and other health risks.
Important Things to Consider
The loss of independence can greatly affect seniors’ emotional health. For some, the embarrassment of having their spouse or adult child care for them is simply too much. In this case, it may be easier to hire a trained personal care attendant to help with bath time and other hygiene duties.
Senior hygiene is vital to remaining healthy, but hygiene-related tasks often become more difficult as people age. Knowing how to best assist your loved one can make the process easier for everyone.