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Health and Hygiene: Tips for Seniors and Their Caregivers

Elderly woman in wheelchair - caregiver hygiene tips
Home Caregiver with senior woman in bathroom, senior woman sitting in a wheelchair

Personal hygiene is something that is of the utmost importance in terms of feeling your best and also ensuring that you remain in good health! However, oftentimes caregivers of seniors who are battling Alzheimer’s disease or dementia find themselves struggling with encouraging seniors to maintain good hygiene. If you have found yourself in that particular situation, this article will provide you with some highly effective tips to get the senior in your life to learn to develop good hygiene skills in order to ensure their overall health and sense of well-being.

Offer Compassion and Support

To start, it is important to understand that Alzheimer’s inevitably is a slow decline of the brain’s natural cognitive functions. Those who are battling the disease will begin to become easily confused over things that were once simple, everyday tasks, such as brushing their teeth.

Additionally, the sensory perception in the individual changes as well, most notably touch, smell, and vision. A robe that may seem dirty to you, may be quite comforting to the individual because of the familiar smell. And even their regular bathtub may be overwhelming because their depth perception is off and the water may appear frighteningly deep.

These are all things that must be considered prior to simply becoming upset and overwhelmed as to why you simply cannot get the individual to maintain good hygiene. You need to “get on their level” in order to help them understand, and you to practice patience, compassion, and understanding.

Start Small

Those with Alzheimer’s find it difficult to take in too much information at one time. If the person that you provide care for becomes confused about what you are trying to relay to them, be sure to take the time to break down the process into smaller bits of information as to not overwhelm them and cause an argument. Here are some tips on how to do just that:

●     Give the individual options and allow them to be actively involved in making their own decisions about washing. Ask things like if they would prefer to take a shower or a bath, which soap or shampoo they would like to use, etc. Make the choices small and brief but keep them actively involved.

●     Guide them with friendly, patient reminders of the steps of their hygiene routine.

●     Offer assistance like handing them the toothpaste or mouthwash, hand them a towel when they get out of the bath, etc.

●     Finally, give them a ton of encouragement. In a respectful way, think of them as if they are a child who is learning these steps again for the first time. If things don’t go well the first time, be patient, don’t get discouraged and keep working with them in a positive manner.

●    If they are reluctant to change clothes, encourage them to do so at bedtime or before their bath. Take advantage of the good days, understand and recognize how they are feeling and go with it.

When to Become Persuasive

If the individual doesn’t wish to bathe as much as you would like them to, or you can only get them to brush their teeth once a day, it is okay to allow some things to slide to a point. However, if it starts to get to the point where their personal hygiene becomes a cause for concern, you will need to become a bit more persuasive to the situation. Things you will want to monitor are:

  • Always make sure they wash their hands regularly, before eating, and after using the restroom.
  • Bottoms must be washed and kept clean daily in order to avoid urinary tract infections and other health issues.
  • Full-body washes should occur at least two times per week. This can be by way of a sponge bath, or full shower/bath. You can even opt to clean different parts of the body on different days to avoid arguments.

Always Encourage and Motivate

As previously stated, promoting encouragement is one of the top ways to encourage success in the individual, and some days will undoubtedly be better than others. A great way to motivate good hygiene practices is to regularly invite them to activities or plan small outings—even if it’s just outside of their room. Those are great incentives that can spark their interest in getting clean and dressed.

It is okay to give reminders about personal hygiene, washing and even using the restroom, but make sure that you really time your requests and phrase them with patience and care. Be flexible with them, if there is an all-out battle about washing one day, don’t force them, give them a few hours or the next day and ask again, making sure that you reflect your concern, care, patience, and love.

To Sum it Up

If all else fails and the individual simply refuses to wash or maintain good hygiene, it is of the utmost importance to remain calm and come up with a personalized solution that doesn’t involve any sort of confrontation. Utilize outside assistance or the help of their doctor to persuade them if needed, though not everyone will be open to new people assisting. Be sure to consider what their routine was like prior to their disease and be sure to provide encouragement and reminders about maintaining that same level of personal hygiene and cleanliness.

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