Talking to Seniors about Personal Hygiene

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Talking to Seniors about Personal Hygiene

Many factors can affect a senior's personal hygiene. Discussing this with them in a respectful and sensitive way can help them to make changes.

Opening a dialogue with seniors concerning the subject of personal hygiene can be an uncomfortable task, but approaching the subject to ensure seniors are not neglecting personal hygiene is important for the promotion and maintenance of their overall well-being.

Why Hygiene is Important

While it is easy to assume that hygiene is simply a personal matter that only affects the individual’s cleanliness, matters of hygiene can impact seniors’ lives in more ways than one. When personal maintenance and hygiene are noticeably poor, seniors may find that friends and visitors are reluctant to spend time with them, thus increasing levels of isolation. Hygiene is also a matter that is largely related to health; whether a lack of attention to cleanliness causes an issue or whether the inability or unwillingness to maintain proper hygiene indicates a greater health problem, monitoring hygiene is important for all seniors.

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Decline in Personal Hygiene

There are various factors that can contribute to a decline in personal hygiene for seniors. Understanding the potential causes can help to shed light on the situation, and can help to direct conversations or inform decisions.

• Memory Problems: The forgetfulness that comes along with memory loss can impact seniors’ personal hygiene routines by causing them to forget basic tasks such as bathing, brushing teeth, changing or washing clothes, and other similar responsibilities. Implementing a system of reminders can help seniors to remember their personal hygiene routines.

• Physical Difficulties: When mobility becomes affected by age or associated health problems, certain hygienic practices may begin to fall by the wayside. Cleaning and tending to certain areas of the body may become painful or difficult. Taking a shower may become a stressful experience when one is faced with the fear of falling, and even reaching or bending to retrieve products and items for washing can become difficult. Putting aids into place for areas like the shower, and enlisting help or support methods to attend to areas like the feet that may be harder for seniors to reach can help with overall hygiene.

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• Depression: Depression is a common occurrence for many seniors in older age, and with depression also comes a lack of motivation or emotional strength to engage in even the simplest of tasks, such as taking a shower. Consult with a healthcare professional to discuss mental health concerns and determine how best to combat the symptoms that affect routine and daily life.

• Sensory Changes: Changes to the senses and how we experience sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations are a common part of the aging process. This means that seniors may not always have the same sense of the state of their odour. Rather than criticizing seniors for having an unpleasant body odour or for wearing too much scented product, suggest changes in a gentle and respectful way.

Opening a Discussion

For many seniors, the reluctance to discuss personal hygiene stems from the fear that independence will be lost if they admit to needing help with everyday tasks such as personal hygiene routines. Many seniors worry that once they concede to allowing someone to assist them with tasks like showering, keeping themselves clean, washing clothes, and other such tasks, they will be losing a meaningful degree of pride and independence. It is important to open these potentially emotional and sensitive discussions by assuring seniors their independence will not be affected. Rather, that this is a new stage of life and there is nothing to feel ashamed of. Make suggestions rather than telling them what to do for personal hygiene routines and practices. Make sure that the conversation is just that -  an open and understanding dialogue.

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The personal nature of hygiene means that it can be uncomfortable for both seniors and their caregivers to have a conversation about issues and changes that need to be made in order to improve overall hygiene. Approaching the subject in a respectful and understanding way can help to make seniors feel more comfortable discussing their personal hygiene, and can motivate them to implement changes and practices that will help keep them clean and healthy.

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Contact us today for a Free Nurse Consultation to discuss how Home Care can help you or a loved one manage daily Personal Hygiene in Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge.