It happens to many older adults: over time, it can get harder and harder to keep up with a personal hygiene routine. Changes in our physical and mental capabilities can limit our ability to bathe, brush our teeth, wash our hair, and more. But does this mean that we have to accept these limitations? And what can we do to help loved ones struggling with these changes?
There are several different ways to make maintaining your loved one’s personal hygiene routines safer, easier, and more comfortable. Today, we’ll look at why your loved one might be struggling with their hygiene routine and the techniques you can use to help encourage regular bathing and cleaning.
However, it might be better to turn to someone with professional experience in some cases. At Merryvale Assisted Living, we provide several lifestyle services designed to help keep your loved one healthy and comfortable, even while managing their hygiene.
If you believe your loved one can benefit from living in a dedicated care community, please get in touch with one of our staff members today and book a tour!
Why Is Your Loved One Struggling with their Hygiene?
Before we get into what you can do to encourage healthy hygiene habits for your loved one at home, let’s first look at some of the reasons they might struggle with their personal hygiene.
It’s important to understand that everyone is different, so hygiene problems can stem from numerous factors. By determining why your loved one is struggling with their hygiene routine, you can develop a proper strategy to help make the process easier, safer, and more comfortable.
Your loved one might be struggling with their hygiene because:
Depression affects everyone differently, but it’s important to know that it’s not a normal part of aging. Various factors and events can trigger episodes of depression, leading to several issues in your loved one’s life, including hygiene problems. Other issues your loved one might face when they’re depressed include:
- Difficulty eating
- Trouble sleeping or waking up
- Loss of interest in hobbies, friends, and activities
- Slowed or slurred speech
- Concentration and memory problems
They’re Developing Cognitive Impairments
Alzheimer’s and dementia can also lead to several issues in your loved one’s life, including poor personal hygiene routines. The risk of developing these problems is different for everyone, but your loved one might have a higher risk if they:
- Have a family history of these impairments
- Experienced certain injuries in their life
- Suffered a stroke
- Have health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, or Parkinson’s disease
- Drink too much alcohol
- Smoke cigarettes
- Lack physical or mental activity
Some of the most common signs of cognitive impairment include:
- Forgetting appointments and events
- Problems with keeping up with conversations
They’re Developing Physical Limitations
It’s no secret that we all develop some degree of physical limitation at some point in our lives, even if we keep up a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Still, these limitations can make it incredibly difficult to maintain a regular hygiene routine without certain techniques or assistance. If your loved one struggles with movement, they might have a higher risk of developing issues with their hygiene.
Their Senses Are Changing
You might not think of it, but it is possible to have poor hygiene and not realize it. Some studies have found that 1 in 4 adults experience some degree of change in their ability to smell as they age, making it difficult to know if you have poor hygiene.
Before you speak to your loved one about how they can improve their hygiene routines, it might be worth asking if they’ve noticed any differences in their hygiene or if they’ve made a change in their habits.
Improving Your Loved One’s Personal Hygiene Routine
Once you determine what may be causing your loved one’s hygiene problems, you can start an open and honest conversation with them on how to resolve the issue. This discussion may be awkward or uncomfortable to start, but it’s in the best interest of your loved one and everyone who cares for them.
Some tips you can use to broach the subject can include:
- Talking to their doctor for advice
- Using positive, encouraging language
- Respecting their comfort in the conversation
- Having other family members and friends in the discussion for support
Your loved one might seem irritated or resistant to changing their habits at first, but approaching the topic with empathy and love can make the whole experience more pleasant for everyone involved. If your loved one agrees to change aspects of their hygiene habits, you can start implementing certain strategies.
Respect Their Privacy
If you’re changing your loved one’s hygiene routine, the first thing you need to consider is making sure you respect their privacy. Hygiene routines are intensely personal, so having someone recommend new habits you might not be comfortable or familiar with can be difficult to adapt to. The same logic applies to your loved ones.
Before you start making any dramatic changes, ask your loved one about what they can manage on their own and what they might need assistance with.
Fit New Habits into Their Familiar Routine
The next step is to look at their routine and see what you can add to your loved one’s process without interrupting their routine.
These new habits can include:
- New soaps
- New washcloths
- Cleaning areas where bacteria are likely to build-up
- Switching from baths to showers or vice versa
- Having more showers or baths throughout the week
If you recommend new products, make sure these products fit into their routine. If the product is entirely new, try to ensure that it doesn’t affect their routine too much.
Make Bathing Easy & Accessible
The next thing you should do is look at their bathroom and look for potential issues that could make regular bathing either hard or unsafe. If your loved one is worried about hurting themselves while they shower or bathe, you could look to add:
- Grab bars
- Non-slip floor mats
- Shower stools
- Handheld shower nozzles
In some cases, you might need to look at renovating your bathroom to help make it more accessible, especially if you’re planning on having your loved one live with you. Some of these renovations can include:
- Lever faucets
- Raising or lowering the height of the toilet and sink
- Walk-in bathtubs or curbless showers
Recommend a Bath Aide or Nurse
If bathing or showering is hard or potentially dangerous for your loved one, you could also recommend a bath aide or a nurse to help them take care of their hygiene.
Bath aides and nurses don’t have to be used for your loved one’s entire routine, but they can help make sure they can get in and out of the bathroom safely and assist in cleaning specific hard-to-reach areas.
Managing Hygiene Beyond Bathing
There’s more to managing your loved one’s hygiene than making sure they can bathe comfortably and regularly. You’ll also need to ensure your loved one can brush their teeth, clip their nails, comb their hair, shave, dress, and put on makeup (if they regularly wear makeup).
You can help your loved one complete these tasks by ensuring they know how to do them, why they do them, and that they are part of their routine. For example:
- Show your loved one how to brush their teeth properly
- Shave regularly using an electric razor
- Do their hair or apply their makeup every day
- Encourage your loved one’s routine by complimenting their look
Choosing Professional Care
Depending on your loved one’s needs, it might be a better idea to speak to our staff at Merryvale Assisted Living to see if our lifestyles and senior living services can help ensure your loved one easily maintains their hygiene.
Our professionals will happily adapt to your loved one’s routines and make sure they meet their needs safely and comfortably. All you have to do is give our community a call, book a tour, and start the next chapter in your loved one’s life today.